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Browns GM faces uncertain future

His future in doubt, Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage is moving ahead with plans for 2009 without knowing if he'll be around to see them through.

BEREA, Ohio -- His future in doubt, Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage is moving ahead with plans for 2009 without knowing if he'll be around to see them through.

Savage, who has come under added scrutiny since sending a profane e-mail to a fan a few weeks ago, said Wednesday he hopes to return next season. Last week, Browns owner Randy Lerner said he will wait until January before deciding the future of Savage and coach Romeo Crennel.

"I've got four years left on a contract," said Savage, who joined the Browns in 2005 and is signed through 2012. "I'd love to be able to finish that out. He (Lerner) said everything is under review. I'm an open book. I can walk with my head held high. I think we have done a lot of positive things here. Is the job finished? No.

"I would be disappointed if I was not able to finish it out. I'd like to do that. Only time will tell."

Savage and his staff have begun preparing for free agency and will soon begin work on next year's draft. Savage is pushing ahead.

"Life goes on, business as usual continues," he said.

There's no denying Savage has substantially upgraded the talent on Cleveland's roster. However, he has been criticized for not being visible, and his mishandling of several off-field situations -- most notably tight end Kellen Winslow's hospitalization for a staph infection -- this season has led to speculation he may be fired following the season.

At 4-8 overall and just 1-6 at home, the Browns have been one of the league's biggest disappointments after just missing the playoffs in 2007. Savage acknowledged his dissatisfaction with his team's record, but believes the Browns are far enough along in their development to bounce back without a complete makeover.

"I would say this year will be more the exception than the rule," said Savage, who had not met with Cleveland reporters in nine weeks. "I think we have a lot of good players on this team. When you watch the tape, we have more than enough ability to compete in this league."

Savage cited injuries, dropped passes and inconsistency for a season he described as "difficult." He hopes the younger players take away something from the team's regression.

"Every season is a new season," he said. "It doesn't matter what you did last year. It doesn't matter what you're planning on doing next year. It matters what you're doing today."

Savage caused a stir last week when he seemed to distance himself from Crennel during a radio interview. Savage pointed out his responsibility was the 53-man roster and it was up to Crennel and his staff to utilize the 45 players who dress for games.

"If I'm going to get involved in those decisions," Savage said, "then I may as well put a headset on and double my salary."

Savage insists he and Crennel have a solid working relationship and disagreements are common in the NFL.

"We're definitely on the same page," Savage said. "We work well together. Romeo and I have a good relationship."

Following Savage's news conference, Crennel was asked if he and Savage were a good team.

"It can be," Crennel said.

Savage's unchallenged control of Cleveland's 53-man roster is written into his contract, a stipulation that attracted him to the job. There has been growing talk that if he returns he may have to relinquish some of that authority.

"I can't comment on that one way or another," he said. "It's in my contract that I pick the 53. Then obviously something would have to change."

Savage regrets sending the e-mail response, which included an expletive, to a fan following Cleveland's win at Buffalo on Nov. 17. Savage said he was sitting on a bus after the game when he sent the reply.

"I shouldn't have done it. I don't have any excuse for it. We've apologized to each other, so it's really over with," he said. "I'm disappointed in myself for doing it. ... I wish I wouldn't have done it because it opened me up to a lot of other criticism. But it happened, I'm sorry and life moves on. This too shall pass."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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