As the Cleveland Browns prepare to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, they're battling a more insidious opponent on the sidelines: the injury bug.
Currently, there are 13 players listed on the injury report, several of whom may end up playing, but are nonetheless banged up and hindered by their injuries.
The team recently lost offensive lineman Joel Bitonio for the season with a foot injury suffered on the last play of the first half against the New England Patriots.
"You never want to end the season hurt, and that is two years in a row for me now and that is just not something that I’m used to," Bitonio said. "I’ve never been hurt in my life until the last two years. It was just a couple freak accidents, but I’m going to come back and I’m going to work my tail off and do everything in my power to come back better next season than I did this year."
In addition to Bitonio, Pro Bowl cornerbacks Joe Haden and Tramon Williams Sr. are battling injuries, but are probably going to play.
"We will go and continue to treat and get us back almost like we did against Miami, but it was in practice," Head Coach Hue Jackson said about Haden's injury. "It was just running. Sometimes those things happen. Nobody hit him or anything like that. It is just again he just tweaked another groin. We will see where he is.”
Jackson noted the team's inconsistency in finishing games and said a win would validate their efforts so far.
"It would validate everything," Jackson said. "If you build the foundation right, there is all kind of other things we can point to, too, as well. I want to win as bad as anybody. The players do, too, and they deserve it, but no one is going to just hand us a game."
Cody Kessler is feeling good enough to be named the starter against the Titans on Sunday. He injured his shoulder and chest area last week when he was slammed into the ground on a vicious play by a New England defenseman.
"We practiced with the right thought process in place in case something was to happen to (QB) Cody (Kessler) that we will be able to function a little bit better than we did a week ago. I feel better about that," Jackson said.
Another rookie, Kevin Hogan out of Stanford, is slated to back up Kessler on Sunday. If pressed into action, Hogan would be the sixth quarterback to throw a pass for the Browns this week.
Veteran backup Josh McCown is inching closer to the field, but still isn't healthy enough to play, said Jackson.
"I think he is getting there," Jackson said on McCown. "He is doing some things really well, but as you guys know, we are going to err on the side of caution with our guys before we stick them out there. I want to make sure they are really healed up and ready to go, and I think he is close. I think he is really close, but just talking to our medical staff, it is the best thing to do for another week and let’s see where he is next week."
Pounding the ground
The Browns were snuffed at the line of attack against the New England Patriots. The team is averaging a healthy 124 yards per game so far, despite the Patriots holding the Browns to just 27 yards on the ground last week.
"We have a lot of competitors on this team, and the great thing about working with these young men is that they desire to be great," running backs coach Kirby Wilson said. "They have a lot of resiliency, and they are going to bounce back and show what they are worth. We are proud of them. We are proud of the way they work. We are proud of their efforts. We are proud of the way they prepare."
- Tight end Gary Barnidge is limited with forearm and hip injuries.
- Wide receiver Corey Coleman has not practiced with a hand injury.
- Defensive lineman Xavier Cooper has not practiced with a shoulder injury.
- Tight end Seth DeValve has not practiced with a knee injury.
- Offensive lineman Cameron Erving has practiced and is expected to play after a lung injury.
- Defensive lineman Carl Nassib has practiced and is expected to play with a broken hand.
- Tight end Randall Telfer has not practiced with an ankle injury.