Hall of Famer Michael Irvin gives speech to Browns
9:48 PM, Nov 6, 2013
BEREA, Ohio - For 80 minutes, Michael Irvin had the Browns' complete attention.
Standing at the front of a meeting room like one of Cleveland's coaches, the Hall of Fame wide receiver gifted with gab and great hands, outlined the steps to win an NFL title.
"The Playmaker" knows what it takes.
A three-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys, Irvin believes the Browns can one day hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
"I look at this team and I see the young talent on this team and it harkens me back to our early days in Dallas where you could see it," Irvin said. "You started to feel like, `Hey, man, we got a chance of doing something, man."'
Irvin spoke to the Browns Wednesday shortly before they practiced for the final time and went their separate ways during their bye week. As part of a player-engagement program, the NFL has a former player speak to its teams and Browns coach Rob Chudzinki chose Irvin, his former college teammate at Miami.
As Irvin chronicled his personal path to NFL glory, overcoming drug issues and other obstacles to become one of the game's best players, the Browns listened intently.
"With him, the proof is in the pudding," cornerback Joe Haden said. "When you see players that have done what he's done: Pro Bowls, Hall of Fame, Super Bowl champions and so many receiving yards, touchdowns. Everything that comes out of his mouth you have to respect it and listen to it.
"Not only the young guys, but the older guys, everybody knows what it is to be in this league and just to hear how passionate he is about it, it really makes you look yourself in the mirror and be like, is this that important to me like it is to him?"
Irvin's message was centered on team togetherness. To him, it was the common thread when he won an NCAA title with the Hurricanes and three Super Bowls with those great Cowboys teams.
"The thing that's going to separate the good from the great and the others from the champions, is if you have the ability to make a commitment one man to the other, each and every time I step on this field I will get my job done," he said. "In this game, you don't do anything all by yourself. So it's imperative we all have an understanding in order to get to where we want to be, where we make our mark as a team, that we make that commitment.
"That's what makes this game the greatest game in the world. I said to them, `I've been around them. I've seen them. Football teams, football organizations, they never win championships. Never do. Only football families win championships."'
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who played with Irvin in Dallas, believes his former teammate's words sunk in with the Browns (4-5), who hit their bye week in stride after beating the Ravens Sunday.
"His resume is fantastic. His speech was unbelievable," Horton said. "The room was quiet the whole time. When your pedigree states that you have been there and done that, guys listen to you. He gave a fantastic message."
Irvin's connections with the Browns extend beyond Chudzinski and Horton. He played under Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who won two titles in Dallas, and he's close with former Cowboys defensive lineman Russell Maryland, now an advisor with the Browns.
Irvin also has mentored Browns wide receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little, two players with unquestioned talent but with off-the-field baggage.
Irvin called Gordon, who was suspended earlier this season for failing the league's substance-abuse program, a "phenomenal talent."
"He can be considered one of the best in this league if he's willing to make that kind of commitment," Irvin said of Gordon. "I talked to the guys, all of the guys, about spending their resource not towards their history, but towards their destiny."
Gordon said Irvin's speech hit home.
"Mike has definitely been a mentor to me," he said. "He's been great to me. We have a great understanding about the game, our backgrounds are the same and we definitely relate to each other in a lot of ways. I look up to him.
"He's a great guy."
NOTES: Browns QB Jason Campbell was named AFC offensive player of the week after throwing three TD passes in win over Ravens. ... Several Browns, including starters LT Joe Thomas, LB D'Qwell Jackson, WR Davone Bess and DEs Desmond Bryant and Ahtyba Rubin, worked inside with trainers during practice.