BEREA — The concussions are piling up for the Browns and will almost certainly cost them two members of both the receiving corps and secondary Thursday night at Cincinnati.
Receiver Brian Hartline was added to the injury report Monday. He arrived at team headquarters in the morning, complained of symptoms, was evaluated and diagnosed with a concussion.
Cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner sustained concussions Sunday on back-to-back defensive series in the third quarter and left the 34-20 loss to Arizona.
“I’m not going to sit here and rule them out as we speak,” coach Mike Pettine said Monday on a conference call. “But they’re in the protocol. I think it would be extremely difficult for them to be cleared in time to play on a Thursday.”
Andrew Hawkins was concussed Oct. 25 against St. Louis and remained in the protocol Monday.
Hartline’s role increased Sunday without Hawkins. He caught four passes in 10 targets for 32 yards and a career-high two touchdowns in the first half. He also dropped four passes in the second half as the Browns were shut out.
“Nobody’s harder, nobody critiques themselves more than Brian,” Pettine said. “He was upset with the drops. I was happy for him certainly with the two touchdowns. I thought he ran two great routes, and I thought Josh (McCown) did an outstanding job of getting the ball to him, especially the one where they went max blitz and he just backpedaled and threw it to a spot. I thought Brian did a great job understanding the route and getting where he was supposed to be and the ball found him.”
Haden had just returned to practice last week following a concussion suffered Oct. 11 against the Ravens.
“Anytime that the concussions come up, it’s always concerning to a coaching staff. Always,” Pettine said. “And you do everything you can to help prevent them, and I think the league’s done an outstanding job in recent years with recognizing the importance.”
Safety Tashaun Gipson had talked to Haden and Whitner.
“We’re going to lose those guys certainly for this week, but those guys seem in good spirits, which is always a plus and a blessing,” Gipson said.
Without Hawkins and Hartline, the coaches would have almost no choice but to increase the repetitions of Dwayne Bowe, who signed a two-year contract in the offseason with $9 million guaranteed. He was active Sunday for only the third time and played seven snaps in the fourth quarter. He doesn’t have a catch this season.
Travis Benjamin led the receivers by playing 53 of 63 offensive snaps for 84 percent. Hartline was next at 51 snaps, followed by Taylor Gabriel with 39 and Marlon Moore with 10.
Center Alex Mack isn’t going anywhere.
After being mentioned in trade rumors Sunday morning, he sent a statement to media outlets Monday night.
“I have a ‘no trade’ clause in my contract,” Mack said. “It was included for a good reason: I’m not leaving my teammates, coaches and Browns fans while there is work this season to be finished.”
Mack can opt out of the contract after this season if he chooses.
Rookie running back Duke Johnson, a third-round pick, touched the ball only three times Sunday. Pettine said that’s not enough.
“Duke’s a guy that’s shown he can do some damage with the football and I think that’s on us as a staff to find more creative ways to get him the football, whether that’s in the run game or that’s in the pass game,” he said. “But he’s showing to be the guy that we thought he was and I’d agree with that. We need to get him the ball more.”
Johnson rushed one time for 3 yards and caught two passes for 68 yards, including a 52-yarder on a slant. Robert Turbin took much of his playing time in the second half and Johnson was limited to the single carry. Pettine said it wasn’t the Cardinals defense, it was the Browns who limited his touches.
“I just think it was the way the game flowed,” Pettine said. “I never felt like there was a point in time in the second half where, hey, we can’t go to Duke anymore.”
With third safety Jordan Poyer out with a shoulder injury, rookie fourth-round pick Ibraheim Campbell replaced Whitner against the Cardinals. He had five solo tackles in his only extensive play of the year.
“I.C. has done some good things for us,” Pettine said. “He does a great job in practice whether he’s playing scout safety or special teams. We were confident that given the opportunity that he would show up and make some plays. That was good to see yesterday.
“I think his physicality is one thing that sticks out when he’s out there. I thought he made some real nice tackles in space and he’s not afraid to stick it in there.”
Cornerback Johnson Bademosi replaced Haden, getting the nod ahead of Pierre Desir and Justin Gilbert. Desir played one snap and Gilbert none.
“(Bademosi) was already up in a package where he was playing, so the fact that he was already up and involved in the game and into it, that was an easier transition for us, to just extend him into taking Haden’s reps,” Pettine said.
Desir would seem most likely to start for Haden against the Bengals. He replaced him in the three games he’s missed.
Pettine said the Sunday morning trade rumors, which also mentioned left tackle Joe Thomas and outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo, didn’t affect the performance of the players.
“No, these guys are professionals. I didn’t notice any lack of focus because of some rumor that came out the morning of the game,” Pettine said. “I’ll likely say something in tonight’s meeting. I just think it’s a function of, when you get close to the trade deadline and things aren’t going well, people outside the building want to put two and two together and float stuff out there. Part of being in the situation that we’re in is dealing with adversity and this is just part of it.”
The league’s trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m. It would be a big surprise if the Browns made any noteworthy moves, because they’re not going to trade any of their “core” players unless they receive a great offer.
“You would like to keep the guys in this locker room who bled, who sweat, came through training camp and went through the rhythm,” Gipson said.
Tight end Gary Barnidge’s career year comes at the perfect time. He’s in the final year of his contract and has 40 catches for 567 yards and six touchdowns.
“I enjoy it a lot,” he said of Cleveland. “I love my time here. The fans are great. The team is great. I am really rooted in the community with all the stuff I have tried to give back to.”
But he didn’t want to talk about what could happen in free agency.
“I really don’t worry about all that kind of stuff because right now I am only focused on the season,” he said. “All that stuff will take care of itself when the time comes. I am not even thinking about any of that stuff right now because I am just trying to help the team get wins.”
- Armonty Bryant played the most snaps of the outside linebackers with 47 of 81, 58 percent. Kruger was next at 45 snaps. Mingo played 18.
- Rookie nose tackle Danny Shelton played 37 snaps (46 percent).
- Tackle Andre Smith (concussion) and linebacker Rey Maualuga (calf) were listed as didn’t practice on the Bengals injury report.
- The Browns re-signed defensive lineman Dylan Wynn to the practice squad and released defensive lineman Ray Drew from the practice squad.
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