Browns players stand in line, link arms during national anthem

About 30 Cleveland Browns players stood linking arms in a line during the national anthem before Saturday's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Saturday's demonstration contrasted to the team's sideline five days ago when a dozen Browns players formed a circle and prayed in silent protest during the anthem in a game against the New York Giants.

All players on both teams were standing during the anthem Saturday night.

This came the day after Browns legend Jim Brown said he wouldn't "desecrate my flag and my national anthem," as he talked about free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee last season during the national anthem. Kaepernick has become a polarizing figure for kneeling during the anthem and is currently out of the NFL.

Brown had a discussion with the team about societal issues and the anthem on Friday, and part of the discussion was about the best way for players to express themselves and have maximum impact. Brown stressed acting as a team and perhaps discussing issues and approach with the organization, which Brown said would be supportive.

"Jim Brown's message to us was, 'Your message really becomes powerful when you're unified.' That's what we're trying to do right now," Browns tight end Seth DeValve said.

In a separate interview on Friday, Brown said he did not believe in showing any disrespect to the anthem or the flag, but he supported players' activism. The team has made it clear it supports the players and their right to express themselves.

"I just think numbers are an amazing thing. When we can get more guys -- black, white, everybody just unified as a team -- I think that will make the greatest impact," Browns defensive back Jason McCourty said.

Browns coach Hue Jackson said he was not aware what happened behind him as he sang the anthem. The long line of players stood together just in front of the Browns' bench, behind the rest of the players and coaches standing closer to the field.

"I just knew that our guys would handle everything respectfully," Jackson said "You're not talking about anybody kneeling, so I think that's an improvement. Whatever the guys did, I'm with them 100 percent and I'm sure they tried to handle it with class."

ESPN's Jenna Laine, Pat McManamon and The Associated Press contributed to this report.