Ocean City native Mike Lombardi has returned to the NFL.

Lombardi, who grew up in Ocean City and still lives there, was hired today as the Cleveland Browns’ vice president of player personnel under new Browns CEO (and former Philadelphia Eagles president) Joe Banner.

Lombardi, 53, previously worked with Banner when Lombardi was in the Eagles’ personnel department from 1997-98. This also marks Lombardi’s second stint with the Browns, having headed their personnel department from 1987-96.

“Listen, I understand that I’m going out on the limb myself by hiring Mike,” Banner said in quotes provided by the Browns. “I didn’t do this casually. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to him and everything that matters. Time will tell if it’s right or wrong, but I made (the choice to hire Lombardi) confidently and with my eyes wide open about the perceptions, about the realities and about my own time I spent with him. I feel comfortable with it.”

Lombardi has 22 years of NFL front-office experience. Besides the Eagles and Browns, he also worked with San Francisco (1984-87), St. Louis (1996) and Oakland (1999-07).

After leaving the Raiders, he moved into TV. Lombardi has spent the past five years working as an analyst for the NFL Network and has been a regular contributor on Showtime’s “Inside the NFL.”

“It’s a great honor and a great privilege for me to come back (to Cleveland),” Lombardi said. “I love NFL Network, but I see myself as a football guy. I missed Sunday’s at 1 o’clock and I really wanted to get back in the league.

“I don’t mean this in any disrespect to media because I have a great appreciation, but I’ve always wanted to be a part of a team building concept. That always was important to me.”

Lombardi played football and baseball at Ocean City High School before going to Valley Forge Military Academy for his senior year and then moving on to Hofstra University. While he was at Ocean City, he also attended the coaching clinics in Atlantic City in an effort to pick up tips.

He got his start in coaching/personnel when he joined University of Nevada-Las Vegas as an unpaid assistant to coach Harvey Hyde. Lombardi was there when NFL scouts came to the campus to see Runnin’ Rebels quarterback Randall Cunningham and wound up getting a job in the 49ers’ scouting department in 1984.

During his first stint in Cleveland, he worked closely with then-coach Bill Belichick. Lombardi still has a close relationship with the New England coach. Lombardi’s eldest son, Mick, is a scouting assistant with the Patriots.

“I think I can speak with authority, having been here before, I know how passionate the(Cleveland) fans are,” Lombardi said. “I know how important football is to Northeast Ohio. I am really excited to show that I can do the job effectively, that I will be the person that can help add to the team, can help build the football team and be part of a winning team.

“It’s a great honor and a great privilege for me to come back. When we left in ’96 after the team moved (Baltimore) it was as heartbreaking for me as it was for all of you in this room.”

Lombardi joined the Eagles in 1997 as a consultant and was promoted to director of pro personnel by Banner and owner Jeffrey Lurie one year later. Among the players the Eagles drafted those two seasons were running back Duce Staley (third round, 1997), defensive end N.D. Kalu (fifth, 1997), tackle Tra Thomas (first, 1998), linebacker Jeremiah Trotter (third, 1998) and linebacker/special-teams standout Ike Reese (fifth, 1998).

They also had some success with free agency in those two years, signing center Steve Everitt in 1997 and defensive end Hugh Douglas in 1998.

Contact David Weinberg:

609-272-7186