Browns forced to reduce staff

CLEVELAND -- Feeling the pinch because of the country's economic downturn, the Cleveland Browns have laid off more than one dozen people in the past two days.

On Wednesday, the club released a member of their media relations staff, one of the club's Web site writers and members of the operations team. Other layoffs included employees in the legal and marketing departments.

"It was a very challenging day for the Browns organization and it's important to acknowledge the contributions of those who are currently with the Browns, as well as those that are leaving," team president Mike Keenan said in an e-mail. "We are not immune to the current economic climate and in order to ensure that our business operates in an honest, efficient and realistic manner, we were faced with extremely difficult decisions."

The Browns are not the only NFL franchise forced to adjust because of the difficult financial times.

Last month, the league office in New York laid off 150 staff members and the Washington Redskins -- one of pro football's most valuable franchises -- were forced to release 20 employees. Last year, the Denver Broncos laid off several employees.

Cleveland's layoffs come as the team is in transition after general manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel were fired following a 4-12 season. Both men are still owed millions by owner Randy Lerner, who gave them both contract extensions after the Browns went 10-6 in 2007.

Lerner is still in the process of hiring a general manager and could be close to choosing Baltimore Ravens pro personnel director George Kokinis as his new GM.

Kokinis is the hand-picked choice of new Browns coach Eric Mangini. The two previously worked together in Cleveland in the early 1990s and are close friends.

Kokinis' hiring is expected to be announced by the end of the week.