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AP Sources: Browns meet 2nd time with Whisenhunt

AP Sources: Browns meet 2nd time with Whisenhunt

CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns are taking a second look at former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, who could rejoin Cleveland following a stint as an assistant 14 years ago.

Two people familiar with the meeting said Whisenhunt had a second interview with the Browns on Thursday.

Whisenhunt, recently fired after six seasons with the Cardinals, visited the Browns away from their headquarters in Berea, Ohio, said one person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the search.

The team met with Whisenhunt last week in Arizona, where Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are known to have conducted interviews with at least four other candidates. Whisenhunt went 45-51 in six regular seasons - he was 4-2 in the playoffs - and led the Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance.

The Browns are expected to interview Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. The Colts granted permission for the Browns to speak with Arians, who was released from the hospital on Wednesday after being treated for an inner ear infection that forced him to miss last week's playoff loss in Baltimore.

Already during the second week of their search, the Browns have interviewed Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. The team will not comment on any interview or candidates until they have an agreement with the 14th coach in team history.

The Plain Dealer was first to report Whisenhunt's visit.

A second interview would seem to indicate a strong interest in Whisenhunt, a former NFL tight end who worked as a special teams coach with Cleveland in 1999 - the Browns' expansion rebirth. He's the first candidate known to have a second interview with the Browns, who fired Pat Shurmur one day after completing a 5-11 season - their fifth straight with at least 11 losses.

The Cardinals also let Whisenhunt go on Black Monday, Dec. 31, cutting ties with the winningest coach in franchise history and the one who helped resurrected a sad-sack franchise.

Arizona started this season 4-0, but the Cardinals lost 11 of their last 12 and finished with the NFL's lowest-ranked offense.

Included in that season-ending slide, Arizona was shut out 58-0 by Seattle. Afterward, Whisenhunt apologized ``to our fans and everyone associated with our organization. That was embarrassing.''

The Cardinals have only had three winning seasons in 28 years, and two came under Whisenhunt, who had one year left on a $5.5 million contract when he was fired.

Whisenhunt spent six seasons as an assistant in Pittsburgh, the final three as offensive coordinator under Bill Cowher before he was hired by the Cardinals.

He inherited a team given little chance to compete and turned them into a .500 squad in his first season. The next year, with Kurt Warner at quarterback, the Cardinals made an unexpected run to the Super Bowl, where they lost a 27-23 thriller to the Steelers.

Arizona won a franchise-record 10 games the next season and beat Green Bay 51-45 in an overtime playoff classic. But the Cardinals were routed the next week by New Orleans and Warner retired.

Warner's departure began Whisenhunt's slide in the desert. The Cardinals went 5-11 in 2010 and 8-8 in 2011.

As a former minority owner with Pittsburgh, Haslam is very familiar with Whisenhunt, who would come in with an understanding of the AFC North.

Last week in Arizona, the Browns interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Oregon coach Chip Kelly, Syracuse's Doug Marrone and Penn State's Bill O'Brien.

Kelly was once thought to be the top name on Cleveland's list, but the club backed off because he seemed uncertain about jumping to the NFL. Marrone was hired by Buffalo and O'Brien, the Big Ten's coach of the year, returned for a second year with the Nittany Lions.

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Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The “Polish Machine” who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t quite land the Hollywood movie script ending in his return to Washington.

Don’t fret for Marcin Gortat. Sure, the Wizards, his former team, fought back from a 24-point deficit for a 125-118 win. He’s good with his new scene. Gortat also has thoughts on his former situation and the turmoil brewing.

Gortat made his first appearance in the arena he called home for five seasons Tuesday night since a June 26 trade sent him to Los Angeles for Austin Rivers. He wasn’t sure of how the local fans would react. His journey in Washington ended bumpily, but the overall ride coincided with a positive turn for the franchise. The Wizards reached the playoffs in four of his five seasons.

“Well, obviously a very emotional moment,” Gortat said of his return. “Bottom line is that we came here to get a win. Unfortunately, we lost today. …It was great to be here.”

His arrival in 2013 following a trade with Phoenix led to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2008. Three more postseason trips followed as did Mohawks and fabulous quotes. Gortat provided the power just before the NBA veered away from hulking frontcourts. His fame and fortune increased in Washington. His affable and oversized personality attracted fans.

Fans that watched the 6-foot-11 screen-setting center consistently provide double-doubles graciously applauded for the ex-Wizard during pre-game introductions. Gortat, who started 400 of 402 games played in Washington, appreciated the gesture.

“It was weird to sit on that side of the court and play against your guys,” Gortat said. “It was tough, very emotional and weird, but it’s business.”

Gortat wasn’t immune to criticism from fans and teammates during his time in Washington. Part of the reason he now plays for the Clippers is that the relationship with former pick-and-roll partner John Wall soured. When disapproval only went so far up the Wizards’ player hierarchy, it often stopped with the man in the middle.

The Wizards entered Tuesday’s game flailing. Many of the same players from prior seasons remained. Not Gortat, meaning any blame must land elsewhere. With drama engulfing the Wizards, Gortat proudly felt vindicated. He waited for the pack of reporters to clear before expressing such thoughts.

“Listen, the way I was traded out of that team, it looked like I was the cancer of the locker room,” Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “I think that thing was verified and it was complete [expletive]. It is what it is now.”

Pregame Gortat wondered if the Wizards would join the ranks of teams creating tribute videos for returning players. He would be left wanting.

Rivers, the son of the Clippers head coach, received one in October upon his first arrival back with the team he played for over four seasons. Gortat remembered.

As the formal postgame scrum ended, the ex-Wizard made it clear he had thoughts to share and asked to be asked about the lack of a video tribute.

“Well, what do I think about that? A lot of guys around the league are getting tributes. It ’s obviously up to the organization, but I guess Austin Rivers did enough to get his tribute, but I didn’t do enough to get a tribute here,” Gortat said to NBC Sports Washington. “A few guys around the team understand. It was kind of weird.”

Taking the court with his former teammates was more different than weird, but ultimately cordial and competitive.

“Brad (Beal) fouled me a few times. He admitted he fouled me, but I didn’t get a call,” a chuckling Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “John, yeah, we had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, there’s no bad blood. We spoke at the end of the game, said good luck, stay healthy.”

Ultimately, Gortat made peace with his time in Washington. The fond memories outweighed the knocks. Members of the Wizards organization stopped by the Clippers locker room for a chat and a laugh. Gortat bear hugged Wizards equipment manager Jerry Walter to the ground.

The loss stung. Los Angeles does the stinging most nights. The Clippers entered with a five-game winning streak. Their 11-6 record puts them among the Western Conference elite. Gortat’s minutes are down (18 per game). Such limits would have bothered him in Washington. 

At 34 and knowing his NBA life could be fleeting with his contract expiring this summer, Gortat is cool with his new world.

“I’m great. I’m great where I am,” the 12-year veteran said. “I get to play and help the team as much as I can either on the court, off the court, in the locker room. I’m going to try to help my team and lead us as much as I can. We have great chemistry and a great team.”

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Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

To the surprise of no one, former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed is one step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Tuesday that Reed was named one of the 25 semifinalist for the 2019 class. Reed, cornerback Champ Bailey and tight end Tony Gonzalez are the only first-year eligible players that made the cut.

An obvious first-year ballot Hall of Famer, the next step in the selection process for Reed will take place on Thursday, January 3 when the semifinalist are cut down to 15 Modern-Era Finalist.

Finalist then must receive 80% positive vote from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee on "Selection Saturday," one day prior to Super Bowl LIII. No more than five Modern-Era Finalist can be elected in a given year. The finalist will be formally enshrined Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Canton, Ohio.

The Ravens selected Reed in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, and he would go on to play 11 seasons with the organization. During those 11 seasons, he was voted to the Pro Bowl nine times, was a five-time First-Team All-Pro and started 159 of 160 games. 

On the field, Reed had 61 interceptions for 1,541 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition, the safety raked up 11 forced fumbles and 13 fumbles recovered for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Not to forget a Super Bowl XLVII championship.

Reed's enshrinement would make him the third Raven in the history of the organization to be enshrined in his first-year of eligibility alongside linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. 

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