BEREA — When Phil Dawson walked off the field Jan. 2 after a 41-9 loss to the Steelers in the season finale, many fans thought it was the last time he would be in a Browns uniform.
Last year, Dawson sold his home in Westlake and moved his family back to him and his wife’s native state of Texas. He was heading into the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
Dawson waved to the fans as he departed and stayed in the locker room and said his goodbyes to teammates and members of the media.
“I really didn’t know what was going to happen,” Dawson said. “I am not very good at predicting the future. I felt like that was it. Whether, I emotionally said goodbye or not, I wanted to make sure people around here knew how I felt. I guess that took me down a road here where I January I thought I may never come back.”
Dawson, 36, has spent his entire NFL career with the Browns. He is the only player on the team to be with the Browns since the team returned in 1999. This will be his 13th NFL season.
In 2010, Dawson was 23-for-28 on field goals and 28-for-28 on PATs. His career percentage is 83.2. His 252 field goals is the franchise record and his 1,063 points is behind just Lou Groza (1,349) and Don Cockroft (1,080).
The Browns stamped Dawson with their franchise tag before the lockout was instituted. With the new collective bargaining agreement, there was still a franchise player tag. As a result, Dawson receives a one-year contract that is among the top five at his position. His salary for 2011 will be triple what he made last season at nearly $3.275 million. The Browns can try to sign him to a long-term contract.
“To get the news this offseason that I will be back and now to be here, it’s a surreal feeling, but it’s one I am embracing and looking forward to,” Dawson said. “I am ready to get after it. I am kind of frustrated that I can’t be out there practicing right now. Hopefully, that will all get worked out because I want to get prepared and have a good season.”
The new CBA doesn’t allow new signees to practice before Aug. 4, which is when the new NFL year begins.
Dawson has been through coaching changes many times before. He has been under Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini and now Pat Shurmur.
“The changes probably don’t affect me quite as much as the other guys,” Dawson said. “There are two little yellow poles out there and that’s my target. Regardless of what changes are going on, my job really doesn’t change. There’s very little I need to learn in terms of playbook. Some things change with kickoffs and schemes and all of that.
“Obviously, having the experience of having been through this before has prepared me. Here we are. You can see it positively or negatively and I choose to see it positively. I know the guys are excited about it and that’s easy to feel in the locker room, so I am all in and I am going to do what I can.”
Dawson has only been to the playoffs one time with the Browns. If the team didn’t use the franchise tag, he said there was a good chance he would have ended up with a team that had a chance to win right now. He hopes he can see the Browns finally turn it around this season.
“I want to win,” he said. “There’s no guarantee any where you go. I’m here this year and I want to win for this team, these fans this year. It would be much more meaningful.”