In Cleveland, no calm before the storm In rout by Oilers, Browns play as if minds are elsewhere

November 06, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- It was supposed to be a football game at Cleveland Stadium yesterday, but it resembled a divorce hearing.

The Cleveland Browns players and fans appeared to be in a state of shock after getting the news over the weekend that the Browns are going to announce today that they're moving to Baltimore next year.

Although they booed on occasion, the 57,881 fans mostly watched in stunned silence as the Browns were routed by the Houston Oilers, 37-10. There were 7,868 no-shows.

The Browns appeared listless, and it was so quiet that Houston quarterback Chris Chandler was able to call audibles at the line of scrimmage while passing for two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, quarterback Eric Zeier of the Browns played like the rookie he is and was intercepted three times. Still, coach Bill Belichick said he'll start next Monday night in Pittsburgh.

Zeier admitted the atmosphere made it difficult for the players.

"That always hurts a little bit. You want your fans out there and you want support. We have to go out and create our own excitement. By no means is it any excuse, but it's sure nice when you have that support," Zeier said.

The man with the toughest job in pro football right now is Belichick. With the team at 4-5, he has to try to get the players' minds back into football for the last seven games.

"Our team has got character. We've got to reach down and find it," Belichick said.

When Belichick was asked about the move to Baltimore, he said, "All of that is out of my control."

Defensive end Tim Goad said of the strange atmosphere, "I ain't going to say it was [a problem]. I ain't going to say it wasn't. It was probably in the back of everybody's mind. It's out of our control. We can't say anything."

When he was asked if he's upset about moving, Goad said, "I'm a Cleveland Brown. I'll be a Cleveland Brown until they tell me otherwise."

Larry Webster, who is from Elkton and played at the University of Maryland, didn't want to talk about Baltimore.

"I was thinking about the game today and I'm going to think about Pittsburgh next week. Baltimore is not in my mind right now. I have no control over that situation, so why think about it?" he said.

Safety Stevon Moore said, "We've still got some fight. We've still got seven games left. We'll try to get better and try to find out what the problem is."

Tight end Brian Kinchen said, "Since I've been here, it was by far the most depressing [game]. You train your whole life to get here. It's what you love doing. When you go out and people start booing you even though you have no control over the situation, it's frustrating. But fans will be fans. It's disappointing, but it shouldn't affect us. It was a nightmare from start to finish."

Kinchen added, "We've never been received in that fashion. It's just frustrating. It's part of the game I guess, especially the way it is now, teams moving and making more money elsewhere. It's all about the almighty dollar.

"I grew up my whole life wanting to play football. Wherever I can find a place that likes me or wants me, you've just got to go with it no matter if it's here with the Browns in Cleveland or Baltimore or wherever.

"It's about making a living," Kinchen said. "Whoever will take you. You don't have much of a choice."

Wide receiver Keenan McCardell, a former Redskin, said about the move, "I haven't put much thought to it. I got my house for sale down there in Washington. I guess I need to find out whether I need to take it off the market."

Linebacker Carl Banks was more upset about the game than the possibility of moving.

"Whatever happens, happens. The team has to win football games. I'm not worried about no damn moving. What can I do if I don't like it? " he said.

Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who is now a team consultant, said, "I never thought I'd see Cleveland without the Cleveland Browns. Not at all. I don't criticize any business deal because that's the nature of business. On the other hand, on the human side, I'd feel very bad if the team leaves."

When he was asked if he would remain affiliated with the team in Baltimore, he said, "I have friends and I always affiliate with my friends. Art's [Modell] been a friend, Belichick is a friend and I have players who are friends. I always deal with my friends wherever they are."

Brown won his only championship in 1964 when the Browns beat the Baltimore Colts in the NFL title game. Now the Colts are in Indianapolis and the Browns are heading to Baltimore.

Oilers coach Jeff Fisher, whose team could be heading to Nashville, Tenn., next year, saw the Browns cut the deficit to 17-10 early in the third period before the Oilers scored on their next four possessions to wrap it up.

Fisher was sympathetic to Belichick's plight.

"I know Bill had a tough time this week with all the rumors and the Baltimore rumors. They're a good club, but you know we played well today and they didn't. They'll win their share of games," he said.

Houston .. .. ..3 ..14 ..10 ..10 ..-- ..37

Cleveland .. ...7 ...0 ...3 ...0 ..-- ..10

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