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Controversy greets Pettine with Cleveland

INDIANAPOLIS — Do you miss Buffalo?

That was the first question new-and-already-beleaguered Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine fielded at his news conference Saturday morning in Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Everything but the weather,” Pettine replied. “I joked that I went to Cleveland to get to a nicer climate. I check in every couple days. It’s been about a degree or two warmer in Cleveland.”

Oh, it’s warmer in Cleveland all right. And it’s getting hotter every day.

Pettine got his break after resurrecting the Buffalo Bills’ defense last season, but his Browns seem intent on making sure the Miami Dolphins don’t claim the top spot in the NFL dysfunction power rankings.

A report surfaced Friday that before Pettine was hired, the Browns had a deal in place to trade for the San Francisco 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh.

That was merely the latest bizarre development in Cleveland.

On Feb. 11, less than three weeks after Pettine joined the club, the Browns fired the two men who hired him, President Joe Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi.

There are also rumors and reports circulating about other coaches the Browns wanted to hire but couldn’t before they settled on Pettine, plus an ongoing fraud scandal with owner Jimmy Haslam’s Pilot Flying J truck-stop chain.

Pettine’s second and third questions on Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine were about the Harbaugh report.

“I got a phone call saying that report was about to come out,” Pettine said. “I shot the messenger a little bit because I said, ‘How does that affect my tenure as the head coach?’ I think my next sentence had either … I used the word ‘flying’ followed by something or referenced a part of a rat’s body.”

Pettine referred to the Harbaugh story as “just noise. That’s something that has no bearing on my job moving forward.

“That’s a critical thing; a big part about being a head coach is dealing with the noise, dealing with the distractions. Just add that one to the list.”

The Browns issued a statement Friday night that didn’t deny there was a Harbaugh trade in the works. The 49ers condemned the original report from’s Mike Florio, but ESPN’s Chris Mortensen followed up by declaring the substance of Florio’s report was accurate.


Kiko Alonso was a fixture at middle linebacker last year.

Alonso didn’t miss a single play his entire rookie season.

But he might not be the Buffalo Bills’ middle linebacker anymore. He could move to a different position if the front office finds more help for new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Bills General Manager Doug Whaley spoke Friday about the 6-foot-3, 238-pound Alonso moving to weak-side linebacker.

“He would excel there, just like he excelled at middle linebacker,” Whaley said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I think he’s got the skill set to excel at any of the three linebacker positions.

“One thing that will maybe help him, because of his frame, it would probably help him not being able to take on those offensive linemen as frequently. So he might be a little more productive.

Does Whaley have a preference where Alonso plays?

“I’d have to leave that up to the coaches,” Whaley said.

Alonso was third in the NFL with 159 total tackles and a league-leading 72 assists. He recorded 10 tackles for losses, four interceptions, two sacks, a forced fumble and two recoveries.


Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell laughed in amazement.

For the first time in as long as he can remember, a prospect’s sexual orientation is an issue at the combine.

University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced to the world he’s gay. He would be the NFL’s first openly gay active player.

“I guess it’s a bigger story for you guys than it is for us,” Caldwell said Saturday.

“If he’s competitive, and he’s committed to working hard, that’s all we care about.

“I think 17 or 18 years I’ve been in the NFL, and sexual orientation’s never come up once when discussing a player. I don’t think it should ever come up again, to be honest with you.”

Jacksonville’s coaches staffed the Senior Bowl last month and had the chance to work with Sam directly.

“As a football player, he’s highly competitive,” Caldwell said. “He played really hard and went through the whole week” at the Senior Bowl “really good. As far as the later announcement, it’s not really an issue for us. … We’re very protective of our culture, and there’s no reason he wouldn’t fit into our culture.”


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