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News and Notes: 12 Updates From Day 1 of NFL Combine

Posted Feb 28, 2018

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier will not play in 2018. The Browns could add a veteran and a rookie quarterback. Mike Vrabel ‘begged’ Dean Pees to join his staff. Jon Gruden isn’t a big fan of analytics. Hue Jackson still plans to jump in Lake Erie.

The NFL Scouting Combine got underway Wednesday in Indianapolis with press conferences from coaches and general managers around the league.

Cleveland’s Head Coach Hue Jackson, Pittsburgh’s General Manager Kevin Colbert and Oakland’s Head Coach Jon Gruden were among those who spoke with the media, and here were some of the news and notes from the day:

- Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier will not play this season as he continues to recover from a back injury that threatened his ability to ever walk again, Colbert announced. Shazier will remain with the organization even though he won’t be on the field.  “We’re going to continue to support him in his recovery,” Colbert said. “He will be part of our team officially, and really unofficially, because he will be with us day to day as he rehabs. He involves himself with the team and team issues so that he can be a formidable member in 2018.”

- Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s long-term future has been murky for the last few offseasons and Colbert didn’t give any indication about how much longer the veteran quarterback plans to play. There’s no limit on his competitiveness, his wanting to win,” Colbert said. “Last year he made mention that maybe it’s a year-to-year thing. Fortunately for us, when we lost that [playoff game to Jacksonville], as disappointing as we were, he came out that night and said he wants to play. That gave me a great lift because I know that the most important position on our team will hopefully be secure for a few more years.”

- The Dolphins placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry last week, which means they can keep him in Miami if they want. But there have been reports the Dolphins put the tag on Landry with the hope of trading him. Miami Head Coach Adam Gase said that Miami tagged Landry with the expectation he will be on the team next year, but “we’ll see how it goes.”

- The Browns are clearly in the market for a quarterback after winning one game over the last two seasons. Jackson stressed that the Browns are still in the information gathering stages in terms of which quarterbacks to pursue in the draft and/or free agency, but he suggested they could end up adding both a veteran and a rookie. Cleveland has the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks this year. Jackson also said that drafting a quarterback with a first-round pick doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the rookie will play immediately. Jackson has experience with letting a rookie quarterback sit for a season from his time with the Cincinnati Bengals when they had No. 1 overall pick Carson Palmer spend his entire rookie year on the sidelines.

- Veteran left tackle Joe Thomas has not announced whether he plans to return for his 12th NFL season, but Jackson said he expects a decision “fairly soon.” Thomas is a future Hall of Famer who has spent his entire career in Cleveland, and Jackson believes he will make a decision at least before the draft.

- Wide receiver Josh Gordon is an exclusive rights free agent this offseason, but Jackson said the team has no plans to let him hit the open market. “I truly believe Josh is going to have a terrific season for us,” Jackson said. “We want Josh to be a Brown for a very long time.”

- Jackson previously said that he would jump in Lake Erie if the Browns went winless and he plans to make good on his word. He will jump into the lake at some point this offseason as part of a charity event and said he wants to get the entire organization involved. “It’s going to be a cleansing of the Cleveland Browns,” he said.

- Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel convinced Dean Pees to join his staff this offseason after the defensive coordinator’s brief retirement. Vrabel said that he actually reached out to John Harbaugh first to let him know of his intentions to pursue Pees, and then he “begged and begged and begged” Pees to come out of retirement.

- Gruden drew a big crowd for his first Combine presser as the Raiders’ new coach, and he was certainly entertaining. The NFL has gone through some changes during the decade he’s spent as a broadcaster, and he doesn’t sound like he’s a big fan of the new-age analytics. “I’m trying to bring the game back to 1998,” he said. “I still think doing things the old-fashioned way is a good thing.”

- Buffalo Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott indicated that his team does not plan on cutting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, but he was non-committal about whether he would remain the starter. “We're still going through that process,” McDermott said. “We're in a good position with some options out there. So that will work itself out.”

- Cincinnati Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin discussed the looming free agency of quarterback AJ McCarron, who is expected to be a highly sought-after player this spring. McCarron will command one of the biggest contracts in free agency, but Tobin said the Bengals never considered putting him in the starting lineup over Andy Dalton.

- The Philadelphia Eagles are going to have to purge some expensive players to create salary cap over the next few weeks and wide receiver Torrey Smith has been mentioned as a potential cap casualty. Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman would not discuss the specifics of any players’ contracts, but said the team would have to part ways with some players. “It’s not like we can just bring the band back together and expect the same results,” Roseman said. “We have to make some tough choices.”

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