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Fans favor Green, still want OL help



Published: Sun, April 21, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Former and current Browns players attended the Browns Backers Draft Party.

By JOE SCALZO

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

GIRARD -- Clad in orange and brown garb, Mike Ballos sat back in his chair at the Creekside Golf Dome sipping a beer and wearing a grin.

Ballos loves the Browns. He likes the Browns' first draft pick, William Green. And he absolutely, positively did not call off work on Saturday to watch the Browns make that pick.

"Oh man, don't write that," Ballos said with a laugh.

The Newton Falls resident joined hundreds of Browns fans, along with former Browns Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield, and current Browns Ryan Tucker and Ben Gay, for the Browns Backers draft party.

In favor of pick

When the pick was announced, Ballos, along with Austintown residents Mike Briggs, Joe DiBlasio and Nick Kennedy, stood up, exchanged high fives and cheered. Most fans liked the pick, but wanted to see the Browns fix the line first.

"I think we need an offensive lineman, but I like Green a lot better than [Michigan State running back T.J.] Duckett," said Kennedy.

"We finally have a running back who will play through pain," Briggs added. "I'm tired of James Jackson getting hurt and not wanting to play. Green is exactly what the Browns need."

Tucker, an offensive lineman from Michigan, and Gay, a backup running back, both wanted the Browns to draft offensive linemen, but they left before the Browns made their selection.

Still, the players stuck around for more than three hours signing autographs, posing for pictures and charming the fans.

"When I got here, someone came up to me and said, 'You're Frank Minnifield,'" the former Browns cornerback and co-founder of the "Dawg Pound" said. "You don't know how nice it was to hear that. It's good to be back in northeast Ohio."

Added Dixon, "There are no better fans than Cleveland Browns fans."

Taking the next step

Dixon was drafted out of Southern Mississippi in the first round of the 1981 draft.

"It was the year after the Browns lost to Oakland in the playoffs," Dixon said. "I remember watching it on TV and thinking, 'Boy, I never want to play in that city. It's too cold.'

"I didn't want them to draft me, but I'm sure glad I ended up there."

Minnifield went undrafted out of the University of Louisville and came to the Browns as a free agent in 1983. Several players have taken credit for starting the Dawg Pound. Minnifield set the record straight.

"All I know is, before I came here, there was no Dawg Pound," he said with a laugh. "Once I showed up, there was a Dawg Pound."

Dixon didn't care who the Browns draft -- "just the best player," he said -- but Minnifield wanted them to draft some offensive linemen.

Reaction

The fans agreed.

"Until we get an offensive line, it doesn't matter who's back there," said Austintown's Al Zardaugh. "But I like the pick. [Green] looks good on the screen."

Don Zabel, of McDonald, wasn't as enthusiastic.

"Actually, I'm not real happy with the pick," Zabel said. "The jury is still out on [quarterback Tim] Couch and I'd like to see them put an offensive line in front of him. I don't think the running backs on our roster have been given a chance.

"We don't have any blocking."

Bob Marshall, of Canfield, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

"I'm kind of leery of it," Marshall, who preferred Duckett if the Browns wanted to take a running back, said. "You see what the Rams did when Marshall Faulk went down. Trung Canidate stepped in and rushed for 150 yards.

"I don't care who you are, unless you have an offensive line, you're not going to win."

scalzo@vindy.com




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