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Transcript from conference call with Browns GM Tom Heckert

By Nate Ulrich Published: September 4, 2011

Browns General Manager Tom Heckert discussed a busy weekend of transactions today during a conference call with reporters. Here is a transcript from the question-and-answer session:

(On if the roster is set now or if more moves will be made)- “I think we’ll probably make one or two more.”

(On Armond Smith and if they plan on using him)- “Yeah, he’ll be active for the game so we’ll see how it goes.  I don’t know how many touches he’ll get, but he showed a lot in the preseason.”

(On Smith’s preseason fumbles)- “Obviously we don’t want him fumbling the ball, but it wasn’t a problem in college. We don’t think it’s a problem, just something that happened so we’re not overly concerned about it.”

(On Thaddeus Lewis and if they plan on keeping three quarterbacks all year)- “Yeah, that’s the plan now.  We probably weren’t going to do that, but when Thad came available we just decided to go in that direction.  We kind of had it change a little bit as of last night.”

(On his thoughts about Quinton Spears)- “He’s guy who obviously came from a very small program, but we think he’s a very, very talented kid.  He’s almost 6-5, he’s 240-something and he can run. He can also put his hand down on the ground and rush the passer.  We thought he was very productive in the preseason and he was in college so we just decided to bring him in and see what we have.  We’re excited to have him.”

(On Titus Brown’s injury and if he’s worried about depth at linebacker)- “Obviously that’s one of the reasons why we claimed this kid (Spears).  We think Titus is going to be back here relatively soon, I don’t know exactly when, but I don’t think it’s going to be a long term thing.  Obviously we have to wait and see if Chris (Gocong) is going to be able to play, but we are a little thin there.”

(On the overall roster now compared to last years and how they’re moving along in the program)- “I don’t know if I can compare it a whole lot from last year, but obviously and I think everyone can tell we’re a lot younger.  I’m not saying that’s better or worse, but we are.  That’s a fact.  We’re younger and that was kind of a goal for us and we’ll see how it pans out this year.  We knew we needed to get younger and I think we’ve made strides in that direction.”

(On what they learned about Colt McCoy from preseason)- “I don’t know if we learned anything more than what we already knew.  We know the intangible aspect that Colt brings to the team as a leader. All that stuff we obviously know that and we knew that even when we drafted him.  I think he’s getting more comfortable.  Obviously, with the whole lockout situation, it’s a new offense for him, but he’s picked it up very well.  I think you’re going to see him grow within the offense through the course of the season.  I’m not saying he’s going to be 100% perfect all the time, but I do think he’s getting better and better and we’ll have to wait and see how it works out.  I think he’s going to be good in this offense.”

(On if he has any new developments on Gocong’s return)- “Not really, he’s coming along and it’s just a matter of time.  We’re hoping for this week and we probably won’t know for a couple more days.  We think he’s going to be back this week, but like I said, we don’t know that for sure.”

(On not being able to see much of Carlton Mitchell due to injury and what makes him think that Mitchell can be a factor in the rotation)- “Obviously that’s still a little bit of a guessing game.  He’s a very, very talented guy and we thought he was having a tremendous camp before he got injured.  He looked good and unfortunately he had kind of a freak injury.  It’s unfortunate for everybody, but we do think he’s a very talented guy and we’re willing to take the chance that he’s going to be what we thought he was.  We’ll have to see how many plays this year, but we’re willing to keep him on the roster.”

(With Titus Brown’s injury, how close was he to keeping Brian Smith on the roster)- “There were a few guys that we liked, him and obviously (Benjamin) Jacobs.  We had guys that we liked and it’s just we wanted to see this Spears kid and bring him and in and see how that goes.  There are a lot of close calls in this whole thing and they were one of them.”

(On keeping four tight ends and why they kept a heavy load with six wide receivers)- “Everywhere I’ve been we’ve kept six wide receivers so it’s not too many for us.  We’re planning on throwing the ball a little bit.  We like all those guys and it’s the same with the tight ends, in this offense the tight ends are a big part of it.  We like all four of those guys.  I don’t know if it’s a number thing, it’s more of a we like the players there and we think they’re the best 53 guys.”

(On how much of a leap of faith it is to think that Montario Hardesty can be the guy they thought he was when they drafted him)- “I really don’t really think it’s that big of a leap of faith.  We like him, we think he’s turned the corner with coming off the injury.  Obviously, we’re going to find out here in a week. We fully expect him to be what he was when we drafted him.  That’s the plan and we’ll see how that works out.”

(On deciding to put Brandon Jackson on injured reserve and if eight weeks was too long to wait)- “That was really tough.  He’s a great kid and we think he’s a really good player.  It’s just at that position, it’s tough to do.  You just can’t find a roster spot to keep him.  You’re going to have three running backs most of the time, so really you’d end up keeping four running backs with him.  We’re thinking more long term with Brandon.  We like him, we have him under contract for a few more years.  We didn’t want to get into a situation where we had to force the issue.  If one of our two guys got hurt or nicked up we’d have to do something else then we would probably had to shelve him anyways.  It’s going to be a little bit of time, there’s no surgery involved, but it’s going to be a while before he’s able to do anything.”

(On Phil Taylor playing well in the Philadelphia game but not having stats and what was encouraging about his preseason)- “Phil, he played well in the Philly game and I think with Phil you’re looking for the consistency.  Obviously, he’s a rookie playing in the NFL. That’s not the easiest thing to do, to throw him in as a starter, and I think he performed well in the preseason, but he’s got to continue to improve and show us that’s the reason why we drafted him in the first round was to come in here and play and he’s got to do it.  We’re encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.”

(On Eric Hagg’s return)- “We think he can be back fairly soon.  I really don’t have an exact timetable on him.  He’s doing well, he’s doing stuff in the pool and rehabbing.  It wasn’t a major, major deal so hopefully he’s back here fairly soon.”

(On if Auston English and James Dockery can be more involved than just special teams)- “English we actually released today, but Dockery yeah, he’s going to make his deal on special teams to begin with.  We think he can do that and really help us out.  That’s the plan and if he has to play we think he’s shown enough that we could stick him in there and be okay.  We think he’s going to be a good special teams player and if he has to play, he can play.”

(On splitting time between Marcus Benard and Jabaal Sheard at first or if Sheard is ready for a normal starters workload)- “I think he’s ready for the normal starter workload, but I don’t think we’re going to play these guys 100% of the time.  The ideal situation is to get enough guys to rotate them and hopefully I think in a normal year you want your guys playing 60% for the starters and the other guys play the 40%.  We’ll see how that goes.  Hopefully, the (Emmanuel) Stephens kid can come in here and help us and obviously with Marcus here that should be able to take some reps away from these guys.  The ideal situation is to be able to rotate all eight of those guys.”

(On Marcus Benard development as a defensive end)- “Me, personally, I think Marcus is a defensive end.  You can talk about the 3-4, 4-3 all that stuff, but he’s definitely not a 4-3 linebacker, I don’t think.  He can do it in a pinch, but I think he’s a defensive end.  People talk about his size, but he’s a 260-265 pounds and that’s plenty big enough.  It’s all leverage and I think he does a good job with that.  Obviously, we all know he can rush the passer, but if he’s going to be rotating in there, he has to be able to play the run too and I think he can do that.”

(On what area he believes he improved in the most from last season)- “That’s a good question.  I don’t know if I can answer that yet, we’ll have to wait and see.  Obviously, there are some guys that we like, some young guys that we drafted, but, we’ll have to wait and see.  I think the secondary is a position where I think we’ve helped ourselves and I think we have really good players there.  But, everybody’s got to see what happens during the season.”

(On what this process was like with coach Shurmur)- “It was fine, it worked well.  We spent a lot of time, obviously, we had a group of guys that we watched over the whole preseason, guys that were possible cut guys.  Our scouting staff did a phenomenal job and we watched 800-some guys I think.  It was hectic there for a while, there were a lot of long hours watching tape, but we targeted a bunch of guys and we got almost everybody we wanted in the claim period. There were a couple guys we didn’t get.  It went really well and Pat was involved the entire time and it worked out really well.”

(On if he is on the same page with coach Shurmur)- “Oh yeah, that was never an issue.  We’re all striving for the same thing.  We’re trying to get the best possible players in there for these guys to coach and I think our coaching staff knows that.  It’s no different where every coach I’ve ever been with it’s been the same where we all get together and we decide what’s best for the team and we just go from there.”

(On what he likes in Thaddeus Lewis and why he felt they needed a third quarterback)- “I think it’s more the fact that we really like this kid.  Like I said before, I think we probably weren’t going to go in that direction.  We were probably just going to stick with two, but this kid, we really liked him.  Obviously, Pat coached him, but we talked about him last year when he was available.  He was on their practice squad all last year and we talked about possibly trying to get him.  He’s a guy we loved in the draft when he came out and he’s just a very talented kid. He’s very accurate, I think he was 70 some percent in the preseason. I think he was 70-something last year.  He’s got a strong arm, he’s a good athlete.  We just like everything about the kid and we’re really excited to have him.”

(On how well defined the receiving core is)- “Whoever can score touchdowns, we’ll get him the ball.  I think it’s going to be a combination.  If you look throughout the West Coast systems, we had the same thing in Philadelphia, where we would like to have the ball distributed all over the place between the tight ends, the backs and the wide receivers.  It’s an offense that I’ve been around where we haven’t had a guy, we had T.O. (Terrell Owens) an he was the one guy who had way more catches than anybody else. That was one year out of all the years I was in Philadelphia, it was spread around.  They can all have 60 catches or however you want to talk about it, but it’s not necessary to have one guy catch 100 balls.  I don’t think that’s going to be the case here either.”

(On what he sees in Jason Pinkston and if Eric Steinbach’s injury really affects the offensive line)- “It’s kind of a two-parter where I don’t know if we’re going to be done doing things on our roster and that may happen here in the next day or two.  But, we do like Pinkston a lot and we think he’s going to be a really good player.  We’ll see how it shakes out this week and who’s going to be starting at left guard.  We think he can do it, we think (John) Greco can do it.  We’re in pretty good shape, we think, but that’s not to say we’re not going to add anybody here in the next couple days.”

(On not being able to evaluate Carlton Mitchell and deciding to keep him on the roster)- “Like I said, the times when he was out there I thought he improved from last year, I really do.  He came in in phenomenal shape, he’s hands were good and unfortunately he got hurt.  Obviously, we’re sticking with him and we think he’s got very big upside, but like you said, it’s a little bit of a guessing game because we didn’t get to see a ton of him.  We’re still on board with him and we’ll see how it goes.”

(On how much discussion he had about lowering the age of the roster and following their ‘over 30’ rule this weekend)- “It’s kind of funny Tony (Grossi), I don’t know if we ever actually ever talked about it that much.  We knew we were an older team last year and it wasn’t necessarily just the age, we wanted to improve at certain positions.  That 30-year old thing, that’s kind of a myth.  It worked out that way in a lot of areas, but we don’t go in and say, ‘We’re not going to sign a 30-year old guy.’  We just wanted to get younger from a team perspective just because the fact we want guys that are going to practice every day, we want guys that are going to be out there all the time and it’s tough when you get older.  That’s just the way it is.  We all know there’s going to be injuries and that’s part of the game, but I just think the younger you are the less chance you have to have injuries.  It wasn’t really a statement where we are going to get younger, but we know building through the draft that you’re going to get younger anyway.  That’s kind of been our plan.”

(On how ready Greg Little is for an important role right away)- “That’s probably still a wait and see thing.  I think he showed what he can do.  He’s a big bodied guy that can catch the ball and do the things we thought he could.  Does he have to improve? Heck yeah.  We think we have some guys that he’s going to compete with for playing time.  Whether he’s the third, fourth, second or whatever he’s going to be, he’s going to play and he’s going to catch the ball.  It’s really going to be up to him and how he improves to see how much playing time he gets.  We expect him to play and be productive for us.”

(On what Owen Marecic showed him this preseason)- “That he can block and that’s what a fullback does. I think he’s a very good blocker and we know he can catch the football. Obviously, if he has to run the ball, but a fullbacks not going to run the ball much anyway.  We think he’s a true all-around fullback and we thought he was very productive.  He’s super smart and he picked up the offense well and he can block.”

(On if Sheldon Brown will play opposite Joe Haden or if he will he see some time at safety)- “No, he’s a corner. He’s our starting corner and we think he’s fine there.”

(On Scott Paxson making the team after being cut his previous five attempts)- “He played very well, he really did, obviously, well enough to make our team.  He a very strong kid and he’s a very good run player.  He was productive for us, he did a good job and I think he earned a spot.  We’re very happy with Scott.”


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