This story was originally published on FoxSportsOhio.com
BEREA, Ohio—As the curtain closes Sunday on the Browns 2010 season, one of the best players in the fabled history of the Browns will more than likely play his last game in a Browns uniform.
It could be the end of the career of Phil Dawson with the Browns. Dawson has been with the Browns since the team returned in 1999 and has eclipsed records that were set by Hall of Famer Lou Groza, who played 17 seasons with the Browns.
Dawson, in his 12th NFL season-- all with the Browns-- has kicked more field goals than Groza. Heading into the finale with the Steelers, Dawson has 251 field goals in 182 games. His .831 field goal percentage is the ninth-best in NFL history.
Dawson is third in Browns’ history with 1,060 points behind only Groza and Don Cockroft. He has made 22-of-27 field goal attempts this season. Cockroft has 1,080 points, while Groza has 1,349.
Dawson has accomplished more place-kicking, in many respects, than Groza, who has a street named after him by the franchise. Groza was an All-Pro tackle besides being a kicker, but Dawson accomplished his mark in five less seasons.
Because the Browns have just had two winning seasons in his entire tenure, Dawson has not received much notoriety at the national level.
After Sunday’s game, Dawson becomes an unrestricted free agent and the Browns haven’t made outward overtures to try to extend his contract before now. Dawson never publicly said anything about his contract situation, but he silently protested by skipping the voluntary workouts and minicamps the past two seasons.
“It’s been such a blessing all these years it’s hard to put a sour note on it,” Dawson said. “We all know, whether it’s this Sunday or 10 years from now, that the day would come. So I’m not going to be bitter or angry or upset or anything. I’m just really appreciative of the opportunity to play for the Cleveland Browns.”
One of the uncertainties is what is going on with the collective bargaining agreement for all free agents. Dawson didn’t close the door on re-signing with the Browns, but with his credentials it is hard to figure he won’t get a lucrative offer from another team. He and his wife are from Texas and he played at the University of Texas.
“I’ve got to figure out what the landscape’s going to look like (in free agency),” he said. “I’ll sit down and get with my wife and we’ll figure out what’s best for our family.”
Dawson will be 36 during the off-season, but he feels he still is kicking well.
“They’re going to have to kick me out the door,” he said. “I still feel like I’m getting better. People keep asking , ‘Are you slowing down?’ I’m like, ‘No’ I’d tell you if I really sensed it.”
Dawson is grateful he was told by Chris Palmer in 1999, ‘We’re going to go with you, for now.’
“Hopefully, it just says that I’ve done my job well,” Dawson said. “There’s been a lot of good players come and go out of this place. I’m certainly not the only one, but it means a great deal to have played in this league as long as I have and especially in one place and be able to develop the bond with the fans and the organization and teammates and friends and see my kids grow up here. It’s all been good, so that’s been great.”
Dawson has always been one to deflect the spotlight, as he did when he surpassed Groza earlier this season.
“I want to beat Pittsburgh Sunday,” Dawson said. “That’s what I want to do. My focus this week is beating Pittsburgh. I have a job to do. I signed my name on the dotted line and until that’s no longer the case I’m going to continue to do my job. So the challenge this week is to embrace the rivalry and block out whatever distractions may be, and in this case, possibly being my last game.
“I just want to win,” he said. “I want to walk off the field the last game of the 2010 season with a win.”