Browns’ Mack looking forward with business over
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Dressed in a powder blue T-shirt, plaid shorts and a pair of flip-flops, Alex Mack looked ready to take a stroll on a beach somewhere in Florida. Maybe someday.
Instead, Mack walked back into work in Cleveland, still a member of the Browns.
Relieved that a whirlwind few weeks are behind him, the Pro Bowl center said he’s looking forward to focusing on football and a day when the Browns stabilize into a consistent winner.
“It’s been a long road, and I’m absolutely happy with where I’m at,” he said. “I’m here to win games. I’m here to work hard. That’s what we’re all about.”
Mack reported for the Browns’ offseason program on Monday, three days after the team quickly matched the five-year, $42 million offer sheet he signed from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The deal, which guarantees him $18 million in the first two years, also allows Mack an option to become a free agent in 2016, when he could choose to leave Cleveland.
For now, he’s not going anywhere other than to the weight room, and intends to spend the next few weeks learning Cleveland’s new offense.
At various points during his complicated entanglement, Mack, who had been given a transition tag by the Browns when free agency began, was reportedly fed up with the constant losing and turnover in Cleveland. And while he acknowledged the instability has worn on him, Mack insisted that any stories floated about his dissatisfaction with the Browns was merely “positioning” by his agents.
“Business is business,” he said. “All I can say is that I’m happy to be here, I’m excited to play football and I’m ready to work.”
Now the NFL’s richest center, Mack, who has played 4,998 consecutive snaps since the Browns drafted him in 2009, said he’s encouraged by some of the team’s moves this winter, including the hiring of coach Mike Pettine. Mack has played under three other head coaches in his first five seasons with Cleveland.
Before free agency opened, Pettine traveled along with owner Jimmy Haslam and several assistant coaches to visit Mack. He said the meeting had a positive effect on him.
“I’ve had pretty much only two opportunities to really interact with him now and it’s been real positive,” Mack said of Pettine. “He flew out to California. I had a really good strong message there. It was exciting today in the team meeting also. It was good to see him in the workplace environment.”
The Browns feel the same way about seeing Mack back in their headquarters.
As the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Mack met with reporters, there were members of the team’s sales staff nearby working the phones as they tried to get season-ticket holders to renew and others to buy into Cleveland’s future. With Mack sticking around, it’s an easier sell.
Mack has been impressed with what new general Ray Farmer has done to enhance Cleveland’s roster.
“I think we have a really good core group of guys,” Mack said. “I think we have a lot of talent on this team and it was exciting to think about coming back here and seeing what we can build. We added a good group of guys last year and we had a lot of real tight games, so when you think about how close you were and just building upon that into this year, I’m excited.”
Along with traveling to Peru and Brazil this winter, Mack also had a stopover in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars made an impressive presentation and nearly stole Mack away before the Browns intervened.
He nearly changed team colors, but is glad to stay in brown and orange.
“I was excited to see what they brought and when I signed the contract, I had to be OK with either way it went,” he said. “It’s a tough part of the game and it’s the business side of things. I’m happy with how it’s worked out though.”