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SENIOR BOWL Browns GM on lookout for help



Published: Fri, January 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Phil Savage is focused on scouting players for draft, search for head coach.

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- Phil Savage got an early lesson in scouting NFL prospects, watching a Senior Bowl practice with his elementary school classmates and spotting a little-known receiver from Alabama A & amp;M.

"Everyone was like, 'Who's that guy making all those catches?' " recalls Savage, now general manager of the Cleveland Browns. "I was like, 'I don't know, some guy named John Stallworth.' "

Stallworth went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Savage has gone from wide-eyed kid to the man in charge of rebuilding the Browns, from watching the NFL big shots and future big shots who visit his hometown of Mobile every year to being one of them.

The 39-year-old Savage, who was named GM on Jan. 6, has been busy scouting players, meeting with his staff and visiting old friends who show up at Senior Bowl practices and events. He's also gotten handed plenty of r & eacute;sum & eacute;s from people seeking jobs, but his most important hiring decision won't be made at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Waiting game

He has interviewed New England defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel for the team's vacant coaching position. Crennel is busy preparing the Patriots for the Super Bowl against Philadelphia.

"Obviously we're waiting until after the Super Bowl," Savage said. "Thankfully, we made it clear at the beginning of this process we were willing to wait if we felt like the right coach was not going to be available until that time. We're holding steady.

"I think we feel good about where we are. We feel like we did a thorough search."

The No. 2 priority is preparing for the upcoming draft, a Savage forte during his nine seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, the past two as director of player personnel. He helped the Ravens build a roster with draft picks turned Pro Bowlers like Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis.

"It's going to be very important because any time you're taking a first step, and that's going to be kind of what we're doing hiring a coach, in free agency and in the draft," Savage said. "If we can string some solid decisions together, then it's going to build confidence within the entire organization and be able go forward with a new attitude that we do have an idea what we're doing."

Senior Bowl veteran

The Senior Bowl is part of that process. Savage, who began his NFL career with the Browns as a coach's assistant breaking down film and making copies, estimates he's been to every one of the games since 1971.

"What makes me feel good is a lot of people I've seen down here this year are a lot of the same people I saw 10-12 years ago," he said. "Their feeling is that I haven't changed and still have a friendly smile and handshake for them in 2005 just as I did in 1992."

He also has tried not to snub strangers who've approached him about jobs now that he's a general manager.

"I can appreciate the fact that this time of year is uncertain for a lot of people," Savage said. "I have empathy for guys that are out of jobs right now. We all want to be gainfully employed. I'm not offended by that at all.

"In some ways, I feel it's somewhat my obligation to shake hands or accept r & eacute;sum & eacute;s or whatever, because you never know."




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