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Notes from the Combine: Where is Tom Heckert?

Feb 23, 2012 -- 8:09pm

By Chris Fedor

INDIANAPOLIS -- Workouts begin Saturday here at the NFL Scouting Combine, so that means it was a relatively quiet day in Indy.

At least it was supposed to be.

Thursday was all about the interviews. Coaches, general managers, prospective offensive linemen, kickers, punters and tight ends took to the podium to chat with the media.

One prominent GM was missing. Tom Heckert.

“He’s fine,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “I talked to him a couple of times today. He’s fine. He just didn’t travel here.”

I asked Shurmur if Heckert was in the hospital or has spent time in the hospital. “I don’t know the details of everything going on,” Shurmur said.

Tom Heckert is the person I have the most faith in when it comes to the Cleveland Browns. His absence is concerning.

I hope he is okay. I hope his “illness” is not serious, and my good wishes go beyond what he means to this franchise from a football standpoint.

However, it is worth noting that Heckert also missed the Senior Bowl. In talking to people from around the NFL today in Indy, the combine is not the end all be all and neither is the Senior Bowl. In saying that, they are two events during the course of the draft process that carry importance.

There is a reason why so many people watch, why so many people from the media gather and why every GM and every head coach arrive for a few days every February.

There’s a reason why Tom Heckert was here in Indy last year. It’s because the face-to-face interaction, interviews and seeing prospects workout in person can’t be duplicated, no matter how good technology is these days.  Heckert’s right-hand man, John Spytek, said as much the other night on Cleveland Browns Daily with Vic Carucci.  Spytek underscored the importance of scouts seeing players in person.

General Managers don’t miss this event unless something is wrong. Tom Heckert’s illness is a personal issue. I respect that, but the Browns are in the middle of the most important off-season in the history of the franchise, and the guy running the Browns’ draft isn’t here.

It’s a big deal.

A Buckeye coming to Cleveland?

One of the biggest guys here in Indy is former Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams. “He’s a big guy,” Shurmur said.  A number of mock drafts, including my own on the draft page at ESPNCleveland.com, have Adams being available when the Browns make their second pick in the first round. He is considered a rising prospect.

The Browns have a need for a right tackle with “Turnstile” Tony Pashos manning the position at the moment. They have spoken with Adams about making a move to right tackle, something the former Buckeye said would not oppose.

I thought Adams struggled at times this year, but Shurmur disagreed, “Adams performed well this year,” Shurmur said.

With what happened at OSU on the field and off the field, Adams will have some questions to answer, but I’d be lying if I said he didn’t makes sense for Cleveland with the No. 22 pick.

The quarterback picture around the NFL remains cloudy

It’s the silly season and nobody is going to tip their hand one way or the other, but the QB’s continue to be the buzz around the NFL.

Whether it is Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Peyton Manning, Kevin Kolb, Alex Smith or even Ryan Tannehill, the conversation is unavoidable.

A number of GM’s stepped to the podium today and talked about it. After listening to Seahawks GM John Schneider, I think Seattle is going to turn its attention elsewhere and will not be one of the teams making a run at Robert Griffin III in the draft.

Seattle would have to move up 10 spots and it just doesn’t seem like something Schneider would do.  “Every year we’re looking for a QB, but we’re never going to panic,” he said.

No team was more forward than the Miami Dolphins when talking about the most important position in the NFL.  The ‘Fins are one of a handful of teams that will dive into the shallow quarterback pool this off-season. Based on their comments today, they are determined to hook a QB. General Manager Jeff Ireland said the team will “use every avenue available.” The only question is, which one?

Miami is an attractive destination for any QB. Its offensive line is strong. The Dolphins have a two-headed monster in the backfield with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, and they have one of the 15 best wide receivers in the game in Brandon Marshall.

Their first target will be Peyton Manning, but Matt Flynn’s ties with new head coach Joe Philbin make it possible that Flynn takes his talents to South Beach.  If they miss on both players, Miami strikes me as a team that wouldn’t hesitate to move up for Griffin III.

Speaking of RG3, ESPN’s Adam Schefter cites league sources that say “multiple teams” have had preliminary discussions with the St. Louis Rams about the possibility of trading the No. 2 pick. This isn’t really breaking news. RG3 is going to go second overall in the draft.

It’s just a matter of what team is bold enough to make the move. Here’s hoping it’s the Browns, although this reports means the starting point to any trade will be a first round pick. I’m willing to make the sacrifice, but are the Browns?

Quotes from Pat Shurmur:

On what traits he looks for in an NFL starting QB: “Fine decision maker, accurate thrower, understands timing, and a guy that makes everyone around him better.”

He seems like he values wins at the college level too.

On Alabama running back Trent Richardson: “He’s a fine player. There’s nothing that says he can’t be the fourth pick in the draft.”

On whether the offense RG3 played in is a concern: “No, I don’t think (it is a concern) because you see him do things physically where you can project he’ll be a fine player.” This is the first of many times he called someone a fine player.

On Andrew Luck: “He’s a fine player. He’s very easy to project because he plays in a pro-style offense.”

On having two first-round picks: “With two first round picks we have some flexibility. We can stand pat and take two really fine players.”

He did mention they are not opposed to moving in the draft though.

On the nine picks they have to use: “We’ve got nine picks. We’re looking as it stands today to go out and get nine good players.”

Chris Fedor joins Bruce Hooley and Greg Brinda 3-6 p.m. weekdays on The Hooligans on ESPN 850 WKNR. Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisFedor

 

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