The Cleveland Browns haven’t played a game since December 30th, but several headlines coming out of Super Bowl Week in New Orleans continues to keep the team in the forefront of supporters’ minds.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 was announced Saturday night. No, a Cleveland Brown did not make the Hall this year. However, neither did the former owner that sold the team to Baltimore in 1995. Art Modell was eliminated on the first cut of the 15-man finalist group for the halls of Canton.
The long-time debate on Modell’s place in the Hall of Fame became relevant again this season with his passing coming back in September. Modell died of natural causes at the age of 87. He owned the Browns for 34 years and the Baltimore Ravens for eight more.
Modell was also eliminated on the first cut in 2002, the only other year he was on the ballot. Many Clevelanders have been adamant on keeping the former owner out of the Hall of Fame for years, including this year. The most popular remembrance of Modell in town will likely always be on the negative end, including (but not limited to) moving the team to Baltimore, firing legendary head coach Paul Brown and his clash with the Gateway Sports Project that built Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena.
Also announced on Saturday night was the 2012 recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes the combination of on-field performance and off-the-field service to the community. Browns’ left tackle Joe Thomas was named a finalist in January along with Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Thomas was named to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time in his career this season. He also has worked with numerous Cleveland area charities such as the Cleveland Foodbank, Kids in Need Resource Center and the Northern Ohio USO.
“Just to be named with Walter Payton in the same sentence, to see myself as a finalist with Larry Fitzgerald and Jason Witten, guys that I think are going to be in the Hall of Fame some day, is a humbling experience, no question” Thomas said.
The award ultimately went to Jason Witten, but the outstanding character of Thomas is what the Cleveland Browns organization wants their franchise to represent.