BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Phil Dawson avoided kicking up any controversy.
Cleveland's longtime, steady kicker reported to the Browns' mandatory minicamp on Thursday after skipping the club's voluntary workouts in an apparent contract dispute.
Dawson, the only player left from Cleveland's 1999 expansion team, has been seeking a new, long-term deal from the Browns for several seasons. He's in the final year of a contract with a base salary of $1 million — at the bottom end of the pay scale for NFL kickers.
Following the morning workout, Dawson politely declined to address his contract status and would not comment on his absence from OTAs.
"I'm just not going to open that can," he said.
While the Browns have been mostly atrocious during 11 dreary seasons, Dawson has been one of their few bright spots.
He is the team's third-leading career scorer and has kicked the second-most field goals (229), behind only Hall of Famer Lou Groza (234). Dawson has made 229 of 275 attempts (83.3 percent), ranking him eighth among kickers on the league's career list.
Perhaps more impressively, Dawson has been accurate in Cleveland, where the swirling winds and cold temperatures make it one of the toughest places to kick.
Dawson was asked if he felt unappreciated by the Browns, who have undergone several front-office changes since he signed.
"I feel good about what I've done," he said.
Cleveland's new front office may be taking a wait-and-see-attitude when it comes to Dawson and whether to engage in new talks about a contract extension. Browns coach Eric Mangini praised Dawson, a co-captain last season, saying he was pleased with the job he has done.
Dawson laughed when reminded about the less-than-ideal conditions he has had to perform in during games in the Browns' lakefront stadium, where the wind seems to blow in every direction.
"Kicking in Cleveland gives you gray hair, but keeps you young," the 35-year-old said.
Preferring to keep any demands private, Dawson would not say it he intends to boycott Cleveland's training camp, which opens next month.
"I'm just enjoying a beautiful day today and we'll see," he said.
The 11-year veteran missed five games last season with a calf injury, but made 17 of 19 field goal tries, including his final six. Dawson has endured all the upheaval in Cleveland, and said there hasn't been a time where he took his roster spot for granted.
"Regardless if there's a new regime or not, you have to prove yourself every year anyways," he said. "Especially at my position. There's only 32 of them and there's always somebody waiting for that phone to ring. So whether you have a new coaching staff or a new front office, or whatever the case may be, you've got to prove yourself not only every year, but each and every day.
"That's kind of been my mentality my whole career."
Players were subject to a fine if they did not attend coach Mangini's minicamp, but that didn't stop three restricted free agents from staying away.,
As expected, linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Matt Roth and safety Abram Elam were absent. Running back Jerome Harrison was also on the field, and fullback Lawrence Vickers arrived late after handling some family legal issues.
Both Elam and Roth are represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus. The restricted free agents have until June 3 to sign their one-year tenders before the team can reduce the offers.