Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine spoke with the national media Wednesday afternoon at the NFL Combine. Listed below is a transcript of the press conference, as provided by the Akron Beacon Journal.
(Is it a priority to bring back Jordan Cameron?) "It's being discussed. Jordan is a very good football player. Had a much better year two years ago. Obviously he had some setbacks injury-wise this year that affected his production. But that's certainly on the table being discussed. It still falls back to when you work in a cap environment, it's got to be the right player first, but just as important it's got to be the right price."
(Has he had any communication with Johnny Manziel?) "I did go to visit him last week. I'll keep the details of that private, just to respect his privacy and the situation he's in. But other than that, also in general terms, we're in that time of year with players where there's not a lot of communication, conversations cannot be football-based. I wanted to go visit him and see how he's doing and let him know that we're proud of him for the decision he made to go in and obviously he has our full support."
(Did the team encourage him to do this?) "Did not. It was his choice."
(Did you know it was an issue throughout the year last year?) "I did not. I knew that our players from time to time, some more than others, would be out and about. I did not know there was a problem, certainly not one that was that serious."
(Did he talk to you before he went in?) "He did not."
(Do you have any expectation when he might rejoin the team?) "I think it was open-ended. I don't want to get into too many details of it. I don't have a firm idea of when he'll be back."
(How did your visit go?) "To respect his privacy, he's in a much better place now than before he went in. He's very determined to come out of it in a much better way."
(Does it add even more question marks to an already uncertain quarterback situation?) "I'd be a lot more concerned if we had a game this Sunday. But it's a position we're going to look to address. All options are on the table. We talked about that at the end of the year."
(In retrospect, what do you wish you'd done differently with Manziel?) "I'm not into hindsight and woulda, coulda, shoulda with that, what regrets we have. We coached him to the best of our abilities as a coaching staff. There were some issues that at the end of the year he felt he needed to address. He stepped forward and said, 'I need help,' and went ahead and initiated it."
(Future for Manziel) "I hope we treat him as we treated him before. He's one of our 90 players in the spring and we'll go from there. The hiring of Kevin O'Connell, I know a lot has been made of that, we know Kevin will do a great job with all of our quarterbacks, holding them accountable, not just working on their technique but implementing the scheme. We're confident not just Johnny but all of our quarterbacks will make great strides under John DeFilippo and under Kevin as their coach.
(Background check last year, did you miss anything with Manziel, take any lessons?) "We had the information that everybody else in the league had. It's easy to look back now and say, 'What did you miss?' You can interpret something a little bit differently now and it turns out to be a deeper rooted thing than you thought. But obviously we felt very comfortable with his background, certainly enough to draft him."
(After Manziel and Gordon, do you think you need to be more cautious about guys with character issues?) "There's a danger in that, that if you just say, 'We're only going to add players to our roster who are in the National Honor Society and the school choir.' You look across the league, it's not just the league, it's society in general. It's rare you're going to have somebody who has impeccable, clean character. It's all risk-reward, you've got to weigh it. As a team, that's why we're here doing these interviews. We've had some players who have had some issues and you look to learn from it. But at the same time I don't think you can just knee-jerk react and go the exact other direction and anybody that has any type of red flag you shy away from."
(Do you go into Free Agency and draft feeling you have to find a starting QB other than Manziel?) "That's probably accurate just because you look at the uncertainty of where he is. Just given the small sample size we still don't know based on what he was going through whether or not he is that answer. There's too much unknown. I'd obviously be scared if we had a game this weekend. It's a position we're well aware of where our depth chart is. We'll look to address it here in the coming months."
(What was your reaction to Ray Farmer's texting?) "I'll be honest, I wasn't thrilled about it. Ray and I have had very clear and open conversations about it. I think as you guys will see tomorrow when you talk to him, he's apologized not just to myself but to other members of the organization. In game is very emotional. I'm not going to go into my initial reaction, but at the same time I'm very comfortable with my relationship with Ray. That hasn't changed. We see things very much the same. It's a mistake, he admits it. A lot of it is deeply rooted in his competitiveness. I think if you polled all the GMs, those three or four hours on Sunday might be the toughest of the week. It's an unfortunate thing and we're waiting for the league to hand down the punishment for it. Whatever it is, we'll abide by it."
(Did your trust have to be rebuilt after you found out?) "I would say that it had to rebuild. Ray's very open, very honest, very forward. He was part of our Monday night meetings when we did our post-game audit. We call it our 'after-action report.' We get together as coordinators. He sat in on that. We went back through the game, 'What did we do well? What did we not do well? If we play this team again, what would we do different? What issues did we have in it and what do we have to address moving forward?' He was part of those meetings. When he had a concern he brought it up and those questions were answered."
(What message did you deliver to Hoyer when you met with him?) "That the door hasn't closed or whatever cliche you want to use. We're open to him coming back. He's spoken a lot on the subject. It's a situation, we're going to weigh all our options here, we're going to weigh all our options in free agency and certainly didn't want to close that door. At the end of the year it's tough, guys are sick of seeing each other and want to get out of town. I did have a good meeting with Brian. To me he and I have always been very open, very honest with each other and that meeting was no different."
(Evaluating Mariota, Kevin O'Connell help?) "Not much. He wasn't really working with him. I know some reports are out there that he was doing playbook stuff with him. Kevin doesn't even know our offense yet. There was a situation where we felt we were doing the right thing, interviewed him, offered him the job and he said, 'I gave some young men my word that I would work with them for the combine and he wanted to honor that commitment.' It's a very important time of their life and they trusted him with that responsibility. Anybody who knows Kevin knows he's that kind of guy. So I didn't look at it in any way as we're gaining some advantage because he's doing some drill work and some classroom work with these quarterbacks. I just looked at it as, 'Here's a guy with integrity who wants to fulfill a commitment he made.' We were more than willing to sit back and wait until the time was right to bring him on board."
(Has Rex Ryan reached out for any notes or scouting reports on defensive guys?) "No, he was asking where to live and where to eat, the more important things. Having gone against them twice a year I think he had a pretty good feel for that roster."
(You happy to see him land there?) "I am because I know the quality of people there, the community and the building. I think he's a great fit there and he'll do well."
(Mingo have surgery?) "He did. It was recent. I know it went well and don't have much else. I've seen him a few times around the building."
What are your biggest sources of optimism for 2015?) "One, the changes on the offensive staff we're very optimistic about. Personally I spoke on this when we hired (DeFilippo). I'm very rejuvenated, I think we are as a coaching staff, the opportunity to self assess and look to get better, for me to immerse myself on the offensive side, I feel very positive about it. Defensively we're a year into the system. We know our players much better. We know what our strengths are and more importantly what our shortcomings are. We're in the process of going through the tape, making corrections, all the self-scout stuff. We return a lot of pieces. If we can get a lot of positions right, when you look at it we were sitting at 7-4 at one point and playing pretty good football, then for a lot of reasons the bottom fell out and didn't finish the way we wanted to. But there's still momentum to take from that. You'd be surprised at how positive the feelings are, not just in the coaching area, but around the building about the Browns moving forward. I know that feeling is not shared by many outside of the building. But if I had to choose one, that's how I would prefer it to be."
(Jimmy said all the controversy of last month you the calmest person, why?) "I just think as a coach, especially as a head coach, when you're in a leadership position you can't get overly emotional. You can't overreact to things. I just feel like I've always had the ability to compartmentalize. When you're in a game week, you don't have much time other than focusing on the current opponent to worry about much, anyway. When you're in that in-season mode, each week is in its own box and then you're on to the next one."
Have you had a month where so many things happened? Since season ended.) "I think a lot of positives came from the last month. I know Jimmy spoke about the retreat that we all went on. We came out of it much better as an organization, much more on the same page. In year one, you end up flying by the seat of your pants a little bit and feeling your way. Year two you get to settle down and look back at year one. To me the most upsetting thing about this month has been the depiction of Jimmy Haslam. I know some people are going to say, 'This is the guy who signs his checks, so he's going to pump him up.' He's been depicted as a guy who's been meddlesome and involved in a lot of decisions and that hasn't been the case at all. He was not involved in any draft decisions, he was not involved in any playing time decisions. He's been the ultimate ... we talk about it as servant leadership. 'What do you need for us to get better?' There hasn't been one instance where we asked for something and he said no. He's very inquisitive. He wants to know a lot what's going on. But for us as a coaching staff in year one, he was outstanding."
(Farmer doesn't like drafting receivers high, how you feel?) "What we did when the season ended and we had to do it again this year on offense was go through each position, kind of give the position attributes. In Flip's (DeFilippo's) offense, what's he looking for in an 'X' receiver, what's he looking for in the slot? What do the tight ends look like? What does the fullback look like? It's a situation where we give him the information of what we're looking for, we prioritize our needs and then we go on from there. History shows receiver in the one position you don't necessarily have to find them high in the draft. We'll set the draft board up based on value and hope we're get great value at every pick."
(You in favor video reviews expanded to subjective calls on pass interference?) "That's something I filled out the survey on. Our staff was a little bit mixed on it when it's something that's that subjective. I know we'll get in a lot more discussion on that at the owners meetings."