Kicker Phil Dawson left town 78 points behind Hall of Famer Lou Groza on the Browns’ all-time scoring list but believes that’s for the best.
“He is Mr. Cleveland Browns,” Dawson said of Groza. “It only seems right he’ll be the all-time leading scorer there.”
Dawson held a conference call with Cleveland-area media this afternoon to say goodbye after signing Tuesday with the San Francisco 49ers. Dawson had spent 14 years with the Browns and was the only player remaining from the expansion season of 1999.
Dawson had become a fan favorite with his reliability and strong performance on bad teams – he was voted to his first Pro Bowl in December. His departure stung many who were upset with the new regime of owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner for not re-signing him.
Dawson said he was open to returning, but refused to say if the Browns made an offer.
“I appreciate the interest in that, but I’m 100 percent moving forward and that’s just how I’m going to roll,” he said.
Dawson signed a one-year deal with the 49ers, reportedly worth $2.25 million. He plans to play longer and said he’s used to playing on a one-year contract after the Browns franchised him the last two years.
The 49ers lost in the Super Bowl last month and seemed poised for another run, which was one of several reasons Dawson liked the opportunity.
“As a competitor, you want to win,” said Dawson, who had two winning seasons with the Browns. “And what is there not to like about this place?”
Dawson encouraged Browns fans to embrace his replacement and support him like they did Dawson. He also reminded everyone he was an unknown when he won the competition in 1999 as a free agent.
“I wish Cleveland nothing but the best,” he said. “I have so much respect for the Browns organization, the fans, the city. I’ll be rooting for ’em. They were some of the greatest years of my live. It was an absolute privilege to wear the orange helmet.
“It seems like a win-win. I have great feelings toward Cleveland and optimism toward my next step here.”