Sunday, May 23, 2004

Browns undergo harsh restructuring effort

NFL insider

Mark Curnutte
The Cleveland Browns are undergoing an internal purge of top executives.

Anyone hired by former president Carmen Policy fears for his job. Those fears intensified after Lal Heneghan, vice president for football operations and chief contract negotiator, was fired.

Browns owner Randy Lerner said Heneghan was transferred to report directly to coach Butch Davis three weeks ago, and Davis fired Heneghan. Davis said Heneghan's dismissal was a result of Lerner's massive restructuring of the organization. Davis denied that Heneghan opposed the $25 million, four-year contract paid to free agent quarterback Jeff Garcia.

Davis and Heneghan reportedly had a shouting match, supporting the theory in Cleveland that anyone who opposes Davis suffers decreased job security.

In just the past month, the Browns have experienced Policy's resignation. He now works in seclusion in an office in Cleveland Browns Stadium until he relocates to San Francisco. Other losses: the resignation of Ron Wolf as personnel specialist, the departure of Kofi Bonner as chief administrative officer, and the firing of Heneghan. "All these things are part of a reorganization, just a transition phase that we're going through," Davis said. "My role in all this stuff is I'm in charge of football."

AFC NORTH: Baltimore rookie defensive tackle Dwan Edwards made a good impression at the team's two-day rookie minicamp. Coming in with the knock of not having an explosive pass rush, Edwards nonetheless clogged running lanes and fought through blocks. He is expected to be a top reserve this season and win a starting job by 2005.

At Pittsburgh's full-squad mini-camp, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau wasted no time in re-orienting the Steelers defense to a variety of blitz packages.

"It's good to have Coach LeBeau back," Steelers head coach Bill Cowher said. "... We threw a lot at those defensive guys."

LeBeau has been re-energized in his return to Pittsburgh. After a year as Buffalo's assistant head coach, LeBeau apparently wants to repair his coaching reputation, which took a hit with a 12-33 record as Bengals head coach. His .267 winning percentage from 2000-02 is lowest in Bengals franchise history.

RUNNING AGROUND: The Dallas Cowboys have gone two seasons without a 1,000-yard rusher.

They've not been without a 1,000-yard rusher for three consecutive seasons since 1974-76. The Cowboys' leading returning rusher is fullback Richie Anderson, who gained 306 yards last season. The next lowest returning rusher to a team is Cleveland's William Green, who had 559 yards before being suspended.

ACHES AND PAINS: Several Rams starters attended the team's minicamp this weekend but could not participate in drills because they're still mending from surgery. That list includes running back Marshall Faulk (knee), offensive tackle Kyle Turley (back) and center Dave Wohlabaugh (hip). "They're at the meetings and they'll watch and they'll go through the walk-throughs," coach Mike Martz said.

BEARING DOWN: Unlike the Giants, the Bears aren't complaining about new coach Lovie Smith's practices. They have had three minicamps and are engaging in 14 days of on-field coaching sessions, otherwise known as organized team activities.

"It hasn't been too bad, really," Bears player rep Bryan Knight said. "Some guys asked some questions about whether or not they really had to be there, and some might not have liked it, but it was the normal stuff. It's not an issue here."

Some Giants players have contacted the NFL Players Association about the legality of Coughlin's offseason program.

"Sometimes, players think they have all the power in making decisions," Knight said. "They don't."

Written from notes submitted by NFL beat writers.

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