August 20, 1999

25,000 Watch Browns Practice In New Home

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns packed up their equipment, boarded buses and went on their shortest trip of the season Tuesday -- just up the road to play in their brand new home.

The players got to practice in the new Cleveland Browns Stadium for the first time on Tuesday, a dress rehearsal for Saturday night's exhibition game against the Minnesota Vikings.

As workers continued putting the finishing touches on the state-of-the-art, 72,000-seat facility, the Browns took the field for their afternoon practice after working out in the morning at their training facility in Berea.

"It's beautiful," linebacker Chris Spielman said after coming off the Browns' home field. "I can't believe there's this many people here for a practice. The turf is great and I can't wait until we can get started for real."

A crowd estimated at 25,000 watched the team run through its drills for two hours. They roared as the Browns defense jogged toward the famed Dawg Pound, Cleveland's rabid bleacher section of 10,000 which has been replicated and remodeled in the new stadium.

Cornerback Corey Fuller and safety Tim McTyer even christened the Dawg Pound by diving over the 7-foot-walls into the crowd, giving a Cleveland twist to Green Bay's Lambeau Leap.

Browns coach Chris Palmer wanted his team to have a test run in the new stadium before Saturday's game. He didn't want opening night to overwhelm them.

"I think it's gorgeous," Palmer said. "It's a monument to the city of Cleveland for what they've done, how they built the stadium and how they brought their team back."

Most of the Browns had not seen the new stadium, built on the same site as the old Cleveland Stadium. Some had played in the dingy, dilapidated ballpark, which after being torn down was dumped in the lake and is now a reef.

"You should have heard all the oohs and aahs when the players walked in," said Dwight Clark, Cleveland's director of football operations.

Some of the Browns were amazed by the home locker room, an 11,000-square foot space which is the largest in the NFL and has multi-colored mosaic tiles in the showers.

"You're used to a dirty, grungy type atmosphere. It's great in there," quarterback Ty Detmer said. "You go in there and there's plenty of space for everybody. It's really a great place. You don't want to get things dirty."

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