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Jim Brown: Art Modell broke Cleveland's heart

Jim Brown can't find an ill word to say about Art Modell, who passed away early Thursday at the age of 87.

The Cleveland Browns legend played for Modell from 1961 to 1965 and recalls the team's former owner as a man who cared about his players.

A fan holds a sign at a
A fan holds a sign at a "Save our Browns" rally outside Cleveland Stadium in 1995. (Jeff Glidden/Associated Press)

"It was a great, great experience because we had wonderful exchanges; he was a visionary," Brown told NFL Network's Ari Wolfe on Thursday.

Modell's relationship with Cleveland was shattered when he moved the team to Baltimore before the 1996 season.

"Unfortunately, the fans in Cleveland, he broke their heart, no doubt about it," Brown said. "But he didn't do it because he could help it, he could not help it. So it's an unfortunate tragedy that that had to happen."

The Browns aren't planning to observe a moment of silence in Modell's honor before Sunday's season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, a team spokesman told Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer.

Brown expressed hope that Cleveland would one day come to forgive the man who left town.

"I would hope so because the game today is a reflection of people like Art," he said. "It's a tremendous game today. It generates tremendous fun for people, they love it. The game is great. The players are fantastic. The money is awesome, and Art was a part of that great vision. He worked with (former NFL Commissioner Pete) Rozelle, he understood television."

There's some evidence the move had a lasting impact on Modell. Cabot recalls a change in the man in his waning years:

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @marcsesslernfl.

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