Before the Patriots got back to New England following Sunday's 33-13 win over the Browns, Bill Belichick wanted to show them something.
He brought his players by the statue of Jim Brown that was unveiled outside of FirstEnergy Stadium earlier this season. Players took to Instagram soon thereafter to post selfies with the statue, but Belichick explained on a conference call Monday what the real purpose of the stop meant to him.
As a sign of the respect that Belichick has for Brown, his response spanned nearly five minutes.
"Well, I honestly think any person, football player or otherwise, can learn a lot from Jim Brown and what he represents and what he stands for," Belichick said. "But particularly as it relates to our football team, Jim Brown is, in my opinion, the greatest player that ever played. I got an opportunity to know him and have known Jim for over 20 years now, since when I was the coach of the Browns. I just have so much more respect and appreciation for him, knowing him well as a person and as a friend than I did as just an observer from a distance.
"But he's meant so much to this game, he's paved the way for all of us, players and coaches, particularly he's one of many people [who've made] professional football, the game of football, the great game that it is. I just felt like it was an opportunity for us as a team, after the game, to recognize and pay tribute to Jim and all that he stands for both in and out of football, but in particular what he has meant to the game of football and how much he's done for the game, which means for all of us.
"That statue was recently put there. It's kind of remarkable that it hadn't happened sooner, but regardless, I'm not sure how many of our players really, really understand or appreciate what he meant to the game and what he has meant to the game through his continued involvement. Not only with football but with young football players, be they Browns players or just other youth that he interacts with -- primarily on the West Coast, but as we know, he's been involved with projets through his Amer-I-Can program throughout the country, which I've been very fortunate to witness and be a small part of.
"That's why we did it. I'm glad they appreciated it. Hopefully that's something that's a part of their football career that will be one small story that's just the recognition of a great player and a great person and somebody who's really made the game better for all of us."
Clearly, the trip to Cleveland meant a great deal to Belichick. Not only because of his relationship with Brown and the opportunity he was given to teach some of his players about the history of the game. Not only because he coached there back in the 1990s. But the Browns franchise carries significance for Belichick in large part because of their namesake, one of Belichick's coaching idols, Paul Brown.
"Honestly I wish Paul Brown's statue would've been right there with [Jim Brown's] because then we could've knocked out two birds with one stone," Belichick said. "Paul Brown's name is up there, that's obviously who the franchise is named for. His name's up there on the stadium as part of the players that are recognized on that ring of honor there in the stadium.
"It always hits kind of a little special cord for me when you think of Paul Brown, and you think of Jim Brown, and you think of the Cleveland Browns, who are named for Paul Brown, being in that stadium . . . Not because I was the coach there, but because of what Paul Brown and Jim Brown did for professional football in that cty. It just has a special place in my heart."