What We're Hearing

What do you get when you combine a secretive team and a free media? Well, you get mysteries and rumors which simply won't die, even if you put a stake through their hearts. John Taylor treads where others fear, and uses the power of his sources to vanquish the hideous monsters of ignorance. Today: updates on the Phil Savage rumors, DeMario Minter's status and much more...

Last Friday, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage had spoken with owner Randy Lerner about dividing up his job responsibilities and focusing on scouting.

That evening, Savage flatly denied the story to The OBR, saying via e-mail that the story is "absolutely 100 percent false. I wouldn't for one minute consider lessening my duties. I have no idea where something like this would come from." In an article that appeared this past Sunday morning, Savage reiterated the denial to the Akron Beacon Journal's Pat McManamon.

Additionally, a blurb that appeared on the website ProFootballTalk.com piggybacked the Daily News story and went so far as to name current Browns Chief Financial Officer Michael Keenan as a potential successor to Savage should the GM decide to cut back on his responsibilities.

Not satisfied, The OBR hauled out the back-hoe and did a little more digging. And what we found was more of the same, albeit from a different source.

A source we spoke with earlier today echoed Savage's Friday comments, stating that he has "not heard that mentioned as a possibility at all in (Berea). To the best of my knowledge, it's an unfounded and baseless rumor. And it doesn't make any sense, to be honest."

Even given Savage's unequivocal denial on two different occasions and our implicit trust as to the voracity of our source, the old axiom of "where there's smoke, there's fire" does not stray far from our mind. And if there is no fire, there could still be residual smoke left over from when the flames were doused.

As always, we'll keep a watchful eye over this situation. Or non-situation, whatever the case may be.

Given the rash of injuries that have decimated the Browns secondary, one question seems to pop up a couple of times every week: where's DeMario Minter and when is he going to return?

Well, we have the answer. Kind of. Sort of.

Minter's agent, Kevin Conner, tells The OBR that his client is "a little bit ahead of schedule" in his recovery from knee surgery almost three months ago. As it stands now, though, there is no timetable as to when he will return to practice.

"From what DeMario has told me, he's starting to see some improvement," Conner told The OBR.

"He's a competitor and he wants to get back out there, especially with all of the injuries (that have hit the cornerback position). But he has the best doctors and they seem to think that he might be even a little bit ahead of schedule... But there's (no timetable) for him to return to practice. It just depends on the knee and his rehab and how everything goes."

Minter was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list toward the end of the pre-season. After six weeks of the regular season, the rookie fifth-round draft pick was eligible to be taken off the PUP list. He was, but remains in roster limbo and does not count against the team's 53-man roster.

Per NFL rules, the Browns will have three weeks from the day Minter returns to practice to determine whether to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

At this point, the Browns have made no decision on Minter for the 2006 season, and likely won't for the foreseeable future. Minter just recently began a more extensive running regimen, going from one or two times a week a couple of weeks ago to three or four times a week recently.

Some members of the San Diego front office and coaching staff--along with several teammates--are privately urging linebacker Shawne Merriman to drop his plans for an appeal and begin serving his four-game suspension this Sunday against the Browns, a source close to the linebacker has told The OBR.

Merriman was informed last week of a positive test result for steroids and is subject to a four-game suspension under the NFL's drug policy. While Merriman has the right to appeal the suspension, a reversal of the penalty is highly, highly unlikely if past appeals are any indication.

If Merriman were to drop his appeal now, he would miss home games against the Browns and Raiders, and away contests vs. the Bengals and Broncos. Should he wait and utilize the appeals process following the game against Cleveland, he would also not be available for an away game in Buffalo against the Bills. And that would be at the very least.

The following week, the Chargers face the Broncos. If he were to appeal and the process were to drag on for any length of time, he could miss both of the games against Denver.

Obviously, that is something the Chargers hierarchy would not like to see happen and will do everything in their power to avoid that very scenario.

The Chargers line of thinking is that they would rather the linebacker miss the game against the Browns and be back for the Bills game, which would allow the second-year veteran an extra week's worth of game action and practice to shake off the rust of four games of inactivity before their key AFC West rematch with the Broncos.

Dropping the appeal would ensure that he would only miss one of the two Denver games.

Their opponent this Sunday also apparently plays a little bit of a role in the way the Chargers are looking for Merriman to handle his suspension.

"Besides," the source joked, "(the Chargers) could easily handle (the Browns) in San Diego with one Shawne tied behind their backs."

The source added that Merriman is seriously considering dropping the appeal but, as of 10:45 this morning, has made no decision and has given no indication as to which way he is leaning. A decision, though, could come as early as this afternoon.

The New York Times is reporting that Merriman will drop his appeal and begin serving his suspension this Sunday against the Browns.

The OBR has gotten word that the x-rays and an MRI performed on Joe Andruzzi's right knee were indeed negative and the injury is "nothing serious". No tears of any ligaments or any structural damage to the area were found, at least according to one Browns source with knowledge of the results of the test.

We're hearing it could be anything from a bruising to a slight strain, although it's still too early to determine how much time, if any, the offensive lineman will miss.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this morning that Andruzzi was suffering from a bone bruise.

For what it's worth, head coach Romeo Crennel told reporters yesterday that Lennie Friedman--who replaced Andruzzi following the second-quarter injury--and Kelly Butler--filling in for Ryan Tucker and his "mysterious illness--could be in the starting lineup for "an indefinite period" of time.

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