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2020 NFL Draft

Hue Jackson: Building Browns back 'starts in the draft room'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Hue Jackson had a lot to say Wednesday.

The excitement from Cleveland's new head coach was clear as he stepped up to the podium midway through the first media day at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. While many of the NFL coaches and general managers who addressed reporters simply waited for the first question to be fired his way, Jackson delivered a lengthy opening statement, summing up what he's done since he took on his new role, what he plans to do and how he hopes to do it.

He briefly reflected on the finalization of his coaching staff and the goals he laid out for each of his coordinators before diving into the meat of his message.

"We all understand our challenge as coaches is to get our football team to really buy into our process and how we want to do things as we continue to move forward," Jackson said. "And we're really excited about this opportunity."

The excitement came from a variety of places, and it started with the event itself.

The NFL Scouting Combine continues to grow and grow as a media event and, as Jackson described it, serves as the unofficial starting point for the 2016 season. No event brings a team together like the Combine, as Browns scouts -- many of whom live all across the country -- coaches, and members of the football operations department gather in one place to size up the potential future members of the team.

As Jackson said earlier this week, not every one of the 300-plus players invited to the Combine will become Cleveland Browns. But the majority of those who are selected by the team in the draft will go through the rigorous, four-day evaluation that includes a thorough medical exam, face-to-face interviews with most NFL teams and a full day of on-field workouts.

It's a small piece of the puzzle that leads to a team's draft picks in late April, but it's a significant piece.

"It gives our staff and organization an opportunity to see these tremendous players that are coming out in the draft first-hand and it's always exciting when you can see some guys you're going to have an opportunity to put on your football team," Jackson said. "So that's very exciting."

The draft, Jackson said, is the start and finish to building the Browns back to a contending team in the AFC North. The opening of free agency next month will dominate headlines for weeks, but Jackson stressed it's a "supplement" to how the Browns hope to rebuild their roster.

"We'll be very disciplined as we go through that because I think our future is in drafting players to our football team," Jackson said. "The challenge will be our staff doing a really good job of making sure that we get our football players better, that we create the right environment for them to be all they can be, that we challenge them to be the best that they can be. And I'm very excited about that opportunity."

Jackson's most important criterion for future Cleveland Browns? High character.

The interviews with players are relatively brief, but Jackson promised he and his support group would ask pointed questions to figure out whether or not the player was a potential fit for the Browns.

As he's done since his first press conference with the Browns, Jackson didn't put a ceiling on his ultimate goal. What he's experiencing this week is one of the first starting points in his pursuit of achieving it.

"I think what I want our players to buy into is that we're going to be a football team, that we'll be accountable to each other, and we all know accountability goes both ways. Then on top of that, we'll be a group that's hard-working, that we'll have some grit, that we'll be physically and mentally tough and be resilient," Jackson said. "I think if we go about it that way and we change the mindset of what we've been, then I think we have a chance to do something that's really special.

"Again, how fast that's going to happen, I don't have that blueprint, but I know one thing, no one's going to work harder at it than myself, our coaching staff and the organization."

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