INDIANAPOLIS: Stationed under a bright light, Browns coach Pat Shurmur stood behind a podium Thursday evening at the NFL Scouting Combine as sweat trickled down his face.
“Excuse me, I’ve got a little bit of a cold,” Shurmur said to start his news conference.
Apparently, Shurmur isn’t the only one in the organization who’s not feeling well.
Browns General Manager Tom Heckert is expected to miss the entire combine with an illness, a team spokesman said earlier in the day. The combine runs through Tuesday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“He’s fine,” Shurmur said. “I talked to him a couple times today. He’s fine. He just didn’t travel here.”
When asked if Heckert has been in the hospital, Shurmur said, “I don’t know the details of everything that’s going on.”
Heckert’s illness is not life threatening, the spokesman said. No further information was provided.
With Heckert missing, Shurmur represented the franchise and repeatedly touted its flexibility heading into the draft. The Browns own two first-round picks, Nos. 4 and 22, and they have not ruled out the possibility of trading with the St. Louis Rams to move up to the No. 2 slot.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III would be the presumed target if such a deal were reached. The Indianapolis Colts are expected to pick Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck first overall.
“We’re open to anything,” Shurmur said when asked about trading with the Rams. “I think that’s the important thing. We’re excited about the fact we can do nothing and pick nine really good players. That’s the starting point. Let’s set it up and fall in love with nine players and pick them, or we have the flexibility to do whatever we want.
“Yeah, we’re willing [to trade]. With two first-round picks, we have flexibility. We can just stand pat and take two really fine players [in the first round], guys that we would hope to be starters for us. Having two first-round picks, you have flexibility if you want to do something.”
The Rams, whose starting quarterback is 2010 No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford, could offer a prize in a bidding war between quarterback-needy teams. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported multiple teams already have had preliminary discussions with the Rams about the possibility of trading for the No. 2 pick.
But if the Rams decide to stay put, the Minnesota Vikings, who picked quarterback Christian Ponder 12th overall last year, could benefit from the RG3 sweepstakes. Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said he’s open to trading down from No. 3.
“We’re definitely open to moving,” Spielman said. “We have a lot of confidence in Christian Ponder and what he’s going to bring to our franchise.
“I think there will be a lot of potential movement, especially in that top five, depending on where these quarterbacks fall, the top two quarterbacks in the draft and who’s going to need quarterbacks. There could be a lot of activity that first day and especially those first three spots.”
The Browns, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks are logical candidates to make a move in pursuit of Griffin. Some of those teams will likely eliminate themselves as legitimate contenders by signing a quarterback in free agency, which begins March 13.
Heckert covets picks, and he stockpiled them by trading down from No. 6 last year. As part of the deal with the Atlanta Falcons, the Browns acquired extra first- and fourth-round selections this year.
Shurmur, though, said the Browns would not shy away from trading picks to move up the draft board.
“No, I think you evaluate everything,” Shurmur said. “I wouldn’t say we’re hesitant to do anything. We’re excited about the fact that we’re going to make our team better with this draft. That’s the way we approach it. We’re not hesitant at all.”
Shurmur reiterated that the Browns must continue to gather information before they can finalize their draft strategy. Teams can meet with as many as 60 prospects at the combine, and the Browns’ formal, 15-minute interviews began Thursday night. Shurmur said he thinks the Browns’ meeting with Griffin is scheduled for tonight.
“We try to find out as much as we can about the player,” Shurmur said. “How smart he is, how well he might learn, how he might react to adversity.”
If the Browns don’t trade up, several draft experts believe they might target Alabama running back Trent Richardson or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
“He’s a very fine player,” Shurmur said of Richardson. “When we decide what we’re going to do, yeah, there’s nothing that says he can’t be the fourth pick.”
The Browns forfeited a chance to pick wide receiver Julio Jones sixth overall when they traded down last year. But Shurmur said that wouldn’t preclude them from drafting a wide receiver fourth overall this year.
“No, I think anything’s an option at this point,” he said. … “Along with Trent Richardson, [Blackmon is] a guy who could get picked as high as anybody likes to. He’s a fine player as well.”
As the Browns continue to tweak scouting reports for the next several days, they’re not anticipating their personnel chief to be able to join them in Indianapolis. Still, Shurmur said he does not think Heckert’s absence at the combine will harm the organization’s draft preparation.
“We’re going to keep him posted on everything,” Shurmur said.
Heckert will use Skype to participate in interviews with prospects, which also will be recorded, and he’ll watch the workouts on TV, Shurmur said.
The Browns’ contingent at the combine includes director of player personnel Jon Sandusky, director of college scouting John Spytek and assistant coaches.
Heckert also did not attend Senior Bowl events in Mobile, Ala., last month. Shurmur said he does not think the two absences are related.
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