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Crennel has job to do

Browns lacking in many areas

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Romeo Crennel has taken a hard look at what he inherited in Cleveland, and it was about what he expected. Not enough.

"I think we're starting from a pretty low point, you know, when you only win four games," Crennel said during a break in the final day of the NFL's annual meetings yesterday. "But I think there's some talent on this team.

"What we're going to try to do is channel the talent here, add to it, and put the best product on the field. I think that's what every team tries to do. In this situation, a lot of the talent has been hurt, so you don't know exactly what you have and what they can do. But they do have talent, no question about that."

Key among that talent might be former Boston College running back William Green, who has had his ups and mostly downs with the Browns since he was taken in the first round three years ago. He lost his starting job last year to Lee Suggs, and has had a range of problems on and off the field. It has reached the point where it seems no better than 50-50 that Crennel will keep him around.

Yet even with those problems Green's new boss is, for the moment, facing a situation where Green and Suggs are what he has to work with . . . emphasis on for the moment.

"We still have two running backs on the team," Crennel said. "We still have the draft coming up. If we have to play with what we have, we'll play with what we have. Both of those guys have shown that they have some running ability. We will make it work. The draft is a definite possibility to try and improve there. It's not like we feel we'll go down the tubes.

"I think [Green] has some talent as a runner. Sometimes it looks like he does his own thing a little bit, but I think we'll be able to channel and set him in the right direction and get him to do what we want him to do."

Having said that, it would seem one thing Crennel and new general manager Phil Savage may want Green to do is leave, because the Browns have given him permission to seek a trade. Yet that doesn't mean he can or will, as Crennel understands.

"Sometimes when you give guys permission for trades, or to see what's out there, you can get a high draft pick, or something like that, that gives us a chance to improve," Crennel said. "We're looking for ways to try to improve. I know there have been cases in my past where there have been some players that come to you and ask for a trade. Hugh Douglas of the Jets asked for permission and we gave it to him and we ended up trading him."

Crennel is in favor of bringing in former Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi. Andruzzi is a hardscrabble competitor who Crennel believes will benefit Green, Suggs, or whoever ends up carrying the football behind him this fall. Unlike Green, Andruzzi is a player Crennel has no doubts about.

"I think the guys you're familiar with, you know something about them, you know there's a quality there you're looking for," Crennel said. "Joe Andruzzi, I think he's a tough, physical presence on the offensive line. He'll be good in the locker room. He's a professional. He's the kind of guy we want and are looking for to build this team. So I don't think that's a bad thing that you get guys you know."

That being the case, what about four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law? Even with the recent signing of free agent corner Gary Baxter, the Browns would seem to be greatly strengthened if they could also add Law.

Crennel did not disagree, but there are costs there. As Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said this week when asked if he had an interest in Pro Bowl running back Shaun Alexander, who is asking for astronomical money to leave Seattle, sometimes the price is more important than the player.

"I might want to stay here at the Ritz-Carlton for a month, too," Gruden said, of paying Alexander's asking price. "That's available, too. But there's a cost to what's available."

Same is true of Law, who reportedly continues to seek $16 million in guaranteed money on a four-year contract. Because of that, Crennel is taking a hands-off position on his former charge despite their longtime relationship.

"I think Ty's gonna check the market," Crennel said. "We will probably wait and let him explore before making contact."

In other words, the Browns will continue building the rest of their team the best they can with mid-level free agents and through the draft. If Law's price comes down, maybe they will talk down the road. If not, he's one guy Crennel is familiar with that he might have to do without. Before next fall, Green may be another. . . .
There was little action taken at this year's meetings. Of the 19 rules changes proposed, most were of minimal impact. A proposal to add down-by-contact plays involving fumbles to ones that could be overturned by replay was voted down, 20-12, thus leaving the replay rule unchanged . . . The penalty for illegal peelback blocks outside the tackle box was expanded by a 32-0 vote, as was the definition of unnecessary roughness to include the kind of hits far from the ball like the one made several years ago by Warren Sapp that severely injured Green Bay Packers lineman Chad Clifton . . . Efforts by the Kansas City Chiefs to have the NFL adopt the college pass-interference rule, which is simply a 15-yard penalty rather than spot of the foul was defeated, 24-8, and an effort to change illegal contact to a 5-yard penalty without an automatic first down as well was also defeated, 21-11.

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