NFL Combine notebook: Browns explored option of pursuing 49ers coach

| Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 9:54 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — Did the Browns try to trade for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh?

According to Pro Football Talk, former Browns GM Michael Lombardi was willing to trade several high draft picks for Harbaugh, who has taken the 49ers to three consecutive NFC title games but hasn't always gotten along with general manager Trent Baalke. A Browns statement issued Friday didn't dispute the notion.

“The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options” before Mike Pettine was hired, according to the team.

The 49ers didn't immediately comment on the reported deal, which could have altered the NFL's balance of power — and matched brothers Jim and John Harbaugh, the Ravens coach, in the same division.

Savage credits Chryst

Pitt quarterback Tom Savage went through four offensive coordinators as he moved from Rutgers to Arizona to the Panthers, and he said he believes the process will help him in the NFL.

He was ready to quit football, but he credits Pitt coach Paul Chryst — Russell Wilson's one-time mentor — for rejuvenating his career.

“I was pretty close to hanging it up and being a realist and focus on school … but I told myself I'm not going to give up on the dream,” he said Friday. “It was unreal. Just sitting there in one-on-one meetings with him (Chryst) all the time, watching film, he made it fun.”

Coach: Rice will return

John Harbaugh can't envision Ray Rice not being with the Ravens next season, even though the running back was charged with assault following a casino incident involving his girlfriend.

“I haven't seen anything that would remotely make me think that,” Harbaugh said.

A video shows Rice carrying the woman out of an elevator and laying her on the floor.

Harbaugh spoke with Rice on Monday to get his side of the story and expects him to go through the team's offseason program.

Bortles resembles Ben

Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles measured 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, or about where Ben Roethlisberger was as a senior at Miami (Ohio). Bortles wasn't viewed as a possible first-round pick until his breakthrough senior season that, at least nationally, took off following an upset road win at Penn State. Bortles grew up idolizing Brett Favre for his toughness “and the passion he played the game with,” but among current quarterbacks he said Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck “are great, athletic guys who extend plays.”

O'Brien's staff knows

Nine members of new Texans coach Bill O'Brien staff came with him from Penn State, and for a reason.

“I brought some guys I believe in — good coaches, good guys, communicators,” O'Brien said. “They understand how we work, the hours we work, the way we work, the way we meet, the style of play that we want to play.”

That style, he said, will incorporate the zone-blocking scheme the Texans ran under coach Gary Kubiak but also will include other elements.

Donald garners praise

Baylor guard Cyril Richardson said it's easy to identify the toughest player he went against at the Senior Bowl: Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who also is attending the combine.

“He's a hell of a player, honestly,” Richardson said. “Good feet, good hands and a great technician.”

The combine is important for Donald, who is seen by some analysts as a late first-round pick but a second-rounder by others.

Lesson for Broncos

John Elway, recently given the title of general manager, said the blowout loss to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl taught the Broncos they must create the mentality that if they get down in a game, even by a significant margin, “you've got to be able to turn it around.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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