December 18, 2001 at 7:57 PM EST - Updated July 26 at 11:05 PM
By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - After further personal review, Browns president Carmen Policy (pictured, right) apologized.
Policy and Browns owner Al Lerner had been widely criticized for comments made Sunday that appeared to condone the rowdy behavior by some fans during the bottle-throwing riot in the final minute of Cleveland's loss Sunday to Jacksonville.
On Monday, Policy said he made a mistake.
"I set the tone for everything that was said," Policy said. "I established the way we were handling the questions on how our fans were to be judged. I set the tone for whatever the organization stood for and would find acceptable.
"I did not set the proper tone. I'm not an amateur. There's no excuse for it. I don't care what kind of despair or shock I may have been operating under. I just didn't get the job done."
The bottle bombardment at Browns Stadium was featured on many national newscasts Monday evening.
Locally, sports talk radio buzzed with debate over who was to blame -- the officials or drunken fans.
Joe Bastian, a Yellow Cab taxi driver, said he hasn't sensed any remorse about the disturbance among people he met Monday. If anything, he said, people are still angry.
"The real Clevelanders, the Browns fans, are upset and angry and they don't care what the rest of the nation thinks," he said.
Michael Polensek, a 24-year councilman, said fans simply overreacted to a bad call.
"When you throw objects from the stands at anyone, it's wrong. There's just no excuse to be throwing stuff. Children and elderly people were there," Polensek said. "The NFL should look at it, because it was a comedy of miscues. They (game officials) are lucky they didn't have more problems, quite frankly. People feel passionately about this team."
Policy apologized to Cleveland fans, the Jaguars and everyone but the "hooligans" who littered the field with beer bottles and who took direct aim at NFL officials and Jacksonville's players.
"Under no circumstances would we approve of that," Policy said Monday at the Browns' headquarters in Berea. "I can imagine the national story suggested in some way we were justifying some of the conduct yesterday as though it was excusable. That's not how we feel."
He said the team will push for the prosecution of fans who threw objects onto the field, and that the Browns would study videotape to identify offenders.
Policy said if season-ticket holders are guilty, they could be stripped of their tickets.
Lew Merletti, Cleveland's security director, said the Browns would also look into ways of selling beverages in something other than plastic bottles.
The 20-ounce bottles -- many still filled with beer -- were the primary projectiles used Sunday.
Following the game, Policy and Lerner refused to condemn the rowdiness, which forced a 30-minute delay in the game with about 48 seconds left. Policy also didn't think anyone was in serious danger on the field.
"I don't think this is an example of life and limb being at risk," he said. "I like the fact that our fans care."
Lerner said: "It wasn't World War III."
Luckily, the barrage of bottles, cups, bobblehead dolls and other items didn't cause any serious injuries.
Merletti said 10 arrests were made following the game and that the team would vigilantly pursue those responsible for throwing things.
"We will bring a number of people forward and they will pay the price," Merletti said.
In 1995, the New York Giants took season tickets from some fans who threw snowballs on the field during a game.
Policy said he spoke with league officials in New York on Monday morning, but was not criticized for his postgame comments. He also regretted "dragging" Lerner into the postgame news conference with him.
Mayor Michael R. White, who was instrumental in negotiating the return of the Browns as an NFL franchise in Cleveland, declined to comment directly Monday on the disturbance.
"The mayor is comfortable with the Browns leadership and the way they are handling this," said Jon Benedict, an assistant press secretary in the mayor's office.
The Browns' home season finale turned frightening in the closing seconds when officials used instant replay to decide that Browns wide receiver Quincy Morgan had not caught a pass for an apparent first down.
But they didn't make the ruling until after the Browns had run another play.
Browns coach Butch Davis still doesn't understand why the call was overturned.
"It's my understanding when the ball is signaled into play and snapped that anything that happens after that is non-reviewable," said Davis, in his first season as Browns coach.
Davis was also asked if the bottle-throwing made him feel any less comfortable about working in Cleveland.
"Nope," Davis said. "Proud to be here."
So is Browns quarterback Tim Couch, who said he was standing at midfield talking with several Jacksonville players as the debris rained down.
"They were like, 'I wish our fans were as into it as your fans are,'" Couch said. "I guess you can look at it either way. Either your fans are into it, or some people say they're nuts, throwing bottles and stuff.
"I'm sticking behind our fans. I'm happy they're supporting us like that. I'm not happy they're throwing bottles."
(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)