August 22, 2014

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(Updated again) Day 1 at the combine: Steelers GM Kevin Colbert discusses Jimmy Haslam, Ray Horton

INDIANAPOLIS — Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert provided insight into new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Haslam was a minority owner of the Steelers for three years before buying the Browns from Randy Lerner for $1 billion. Horton was a defensive assistant with Pittsburgh from 2004-10 before spending two years as Cardinals defensive coordinator.

Colbert was asked today at the NFL scouting combine if he shared any secrets with Haslam.

“I want some of Jimmy’s secrets, because I think he’s done pretty well in the business world,” Colbert said. “What I noticed about Jim right away was his passion for the game of football and at that time the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m sure he’s taken that same mind-set to Cleveland.

“I always thought that Jim was very knowledgeable about football, particularly the SEC and Tennessee, because he got to see those guys. He was always just really inquisitive to what we were thinking. I was inquisitive to what he was thinking also, because of his success.”

Horton will install a 3-4 scheme as his base, similar to the one used by longtime Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau. Horton, under prompting from coach Rob Chudzinski, said he’ll also use multiple defensive fronts.

“Ray Horton is a very intelligent, organized, demanding coach,” Colbert said. “I know that the Browns will be prepared defensively very well, because Ray is extremely thorough, he’s respected because he played the game and has coached the game and been successful at both.”

The Steelers have some aging players and tough decisions to make regarding the salary cap. They aren’t expected to re-sign free-agent receiver Mike Wallace and could cut outside linebacker James Harrison.

Colbert was asked if the Steelers are going through a transition period.

“I don’t want to say transition because that means we’re gonna accept anything less than a Super Bowl and trying to get back,” he said. “But obviously change has to occur over time and you hope that you prepared and drafted or signed free agents to deal with that change as it occurs. It’s inevitable and change is going to happen to any player and any organization, you just have to be prepared to deal with it, and that’s all that this process is about.

MORE LOVE FOR HORTON

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim interviewed Horton for the head coaching vacancy, but former Colts offensive coordinator/interim coach Bruce Arians got the job. Horton was disappointed in the decision, wasn’t retained by Arians and hired by Cleveland as its defensive coordinator.

“Ray was one of the guys we talked to for a head coaching position, and that was really because of the fact that Ray did a phenomenal job,” Keim said. “He’s a great person. He’s a great coach, and our defensive players really responded to his style.

“I think that once we determined that Bruce was our guy. I think that you give him an opportunity to build his staff the way he wants to build it, and he made the decision where he wanted to move in another direction and hire Todd Bowles, and he supported it.”

Keim gave Horton a glowing recommendation.

“Their defense is going to play fast,” Keim said. “It’s going to be aggressive. He has a great scheme. I think he would be the first to tell you he learned a lot from Dick LeBeau, but Ray’s ability to put players in position (is excellent).

“I think a quality coach is able to cater to a player’s strengths, be able to hide some of their limitations but at the same time be able to get some success out of a guy where maybe some others threw him to the side, and Ray was able to do that with several of our players.”

NO INTENT TO TRADE HARVIN

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman had his answer ready for the inevitable question.

“We have no intent to trade Percy Harvin,” Spielman said.

He repeated the same answer when asked a similar question later.

A recent report said Harvin could be on the trade block. He’s a productive receiver/returner who’s had some injury issues.

“Anything related to his contract or any discussions will all be kept internally,” Spielman continued. “I think everybody understands what type of player Percy Harvin is. He’s a dynamic playmaker not only on offense, the things that he can do at different positions, but also what he brings us as a kickoff returner.”

JONES TO SIT

Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, a serious candidate for the Browns with the No. 6 pick, won’t work out at the combine.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Jones will focus on his pro day March 21.

Jones will still interview with teams this week and go through extensive medical tests. He was diagnosed with spinal stenosis early in his college career, and each team must determine if it will affect the length of his career.

GM SAYS 49ERS COULD TRADE QB ALEX SMITH

San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said this morning trading quarterback Alex Smith remains a possibility. He was asked at the NFL scouting combine if he planned to deal Smith, who was replaced at midseason by Colin Kaepernick, who took the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

“That’s part of it,” Baalke said. “We’re going to look at all options. Are we going to trade him for sure? No, that hasn’t been decided.”

Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, lost his job after missing a game following a concussion. The Browns are in the market for a quarterback and could try to add Smith to replace Brandon Weeden.

Smith completed 70.2 percent of his passes in 2012 with 13 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 104.1 rating.

If the 49ers can’t find a trade partner, they might be willing to release him and let him become a free agent.

Baalke said he had dinner with Smith and his wife following the Super Bowl to discuss the offseason plans.

“We had a great meal, we had a great discussion,” Baalke said. “I can’t say enough great things. He is a pro’s pro. I have nothing but great respect for him. We’re certainly going to do everything in our power to make the best decision for everyone involved.”

** Niners free safety Dashon Goldson is scheduled to become a free agent, and could be attractive to the Browns if he makes it to the open market.

“We want to keep as many of our core guys together as we can,” Baalke said. “It’s definitely a priority. Are we going to be able to do it? We don’t know that. We’re going to work awfully hard to make that happen.”

MILLINER SET FOR SHOULDER SURGERY

Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner will have surgery after the combine to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, ESPN’s Schefter reported.

Milliner was projected to be the top cornerback taken in April’s draft. The Browns hold the No. 6 pick and are desperate for a starting cornerback to pair with Joe Haden, so Milliner could be a fit.

Milliner will do every drill at the combine except for the bench press, Schefter reported.

“The doctors have informed us that he will be 100 percent and fully recovered in time for training camp in July,” said Tony Fleming, one of Milliner’s representatives with Impact Sports.

Some analysts believe Milliner doesn’t possess the elite skill set or speed necessary for a top-10 pick, but he has been projected by many to be taken in the top five. Cornerbacks are coveted commodities and he was viewed as a safe pick.

Schefter reported Milliner suffered the injury during the season and played through it.

VIEW FROM ABOVE

New Bears coach Marc Trestman, who interviewed for Cleveland’s vacancy, spent the last five years coaching the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. He had been an NFL assistant for years and said the time away from the league didn’t hurt him in preparation for his interviews with the Browns and Bears.

“I was excited as I could possibly be,” he said. “It was not difficult at all. Over the years I continued to put together a format for the interview process if it ever came up. I felt totally prepared at the time.”

Trestman was asked about the transition from the CFL to the NFL. The CFL uses 12 players on each side of the ball, only three downs and the field is 150 yards long and 65 yards wide.

“I think guys there love football and have a dream of playing down here,” he said. “The field is a mile long and a mile wide. It’s an exciting game. It’s been around 100 years, so they must be doing something right. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.”

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