CLEVELAND -- When discussions about the greatest football player of all-time and top athletes by sport, decade and century come up, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown is a name typically at the top of those lists.

As such, the Cleveland Browns paid tribute to one of their all-time greatest players with the dedication of a statue outside of the southeast gate at FirstEnergy Stadium prior to the home opener against the Baltimore Ravens. And to New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, that is a fitting tribute to the franchise’s most prolific rusher.

“Yeah, definitely long overdue,” Belichick said in a conference call with the Cleveland media. “In my opinion, no greater player in professional football than Jim Brown, but on top of that, Jim’s a very special person.

“He's a great friend and he's a great leader. I respect and have great admiration for the things that Jim has accomplished throughout his life -- his career on the football field and lacrosse field, but more importantly, off the field.”

The Browns’ all-time leader in several offensive categories, Brown rushed for 12,312 yards and 106 touchdowns on 2,359 carries over his nine years with the organization. He led the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine seasons, including a career-best 1,863 yards in 14 games during the 1963 season.

Twice, Brown scored 17 touchdowns in a single season (1958, 1965), and surpassed the 1,200-yard mark on seven occasions. He averaged 104.3 yards per game, including an NFL-leading 133.1 yards during the 1963 season.

Brown was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, an eight-time first-team All-Pro, a three-time Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

“The Amer-I-Can program that he's developed and I've had the opportunity to witness that and be a part of it first hand and be involved with Jim on some of those, some of the things he was doing with that, with his organization there,” Belichick said.

“I wish that statue had been there when I was there. It certainly would have been deserving then, however long ago that was, 25 years ago or whatever it was, but a great man, a great football player, a great person. There's nobody I have higher respect for than Jim Brown.”