BEREA, Ohio— The Browns are looking for answers on who will replace Joe Haden if he’s unable to go with a hip injury. Haden has sat out the past two days of practice and a decision might not be made until Sunday.
Buster Skrine has been moved to the outside and undrafted rookie free agent K’Waun Williams is in the slot.
Pettine said it will come down to top pick Justin Gilbert or undrafted rookie free agent Robert Nelson on who would step in for Haden on the outside, if needed. He said it will come down to how well the pair practice this week.
“(We’ll) wait and see,” Pettine said.
Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil didn’t shed any light either.
“Just how those guys practice this week,” O’Neil said. “So far, we’re two walk-throughs and one practice in. Both those guys have looked pretty good. They’ve responded, so I’m happy with where we are right now with that group. Those guys are going to have to go out and prove it on Sunday.”
However, O’Neil did stress that he is not giving up on Gilbert, the 8th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. O’Neil said he’s been putting in extra work to get better.
“He’s been great,” O’Neil said. “He has. If you guys get out there early today, I guarantee he’s out there working press technique. I know you guys aren’t out there at the end of practice, but he’s on the jugs machine. He’s always working something with (secondary coach) Jeff Hafley or (assistant defensive backs coach (Aaron Glenn) after practice.
“He’s always picking (DB) Joe Haden’s brain, or ‘Hey, what did you think about this,’” he said. “There’s nothing that I’ll complain about with Justin when it comes to any of that stuff. He’s attacking the classroom. He attacks the practice field, but those reps that you get on game day are so valuable. It’s just accumulative reps, and he’ll build and build and build as a player. Then one day he’ll be the guy that we all knew he was. That’s why we drafted him.”
With the struggles of top pick Gilbert, one of the options the Browns could turn to is fourth-round draft pick from Lindenwood, Pierre Desir. However, Pettine said he’s not ready.
“Coming from where he came, we knew he was likely a one year red shirt situation,” Pettine said. “He’s not just putting in time. He’s getting there and getting better every day, but we’re not going to force him. If he gets to the point where he’s ready to go, we’ll get him out there.”
Pettine said they won’t know Haden’s status until Friday.
“We’re playing it slow we won’t have any really good information until (Friday).”
LB Eric Martin (personal) was back at practice.
TE Jordan Cameron (ankle/shoulder), DB Tashuan Gipson (shoulder), OL John Greco (knee), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder), DB Buster Skrine (thumb) and RB Ben Tate (finger) were on the injury report Wednesday, but all were full participants in practice.
Taylor Responds: DL Phil Taylor had arthroscopic surgery on his knee on Wednesday and he posted an update on his Twitter account.
“Surgery was a success! Thanks for all the prayers! #RoadToRecovery”
The Browns have not given a timetable on Taylor’s return, but he has been ruled out this week.
Pettine said he would be shut down for “a couple weeks”.
Kruger Missing: Besides Winn, LB Paul Kruger was not on the practice field during the portion of practice open to the media. On the official injury report, the Browns listed him as being held out with a back injury.
Special Teams News: Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said he had called for a punt return on the play that LB Tank Carder blocked the punt that resulted in the safety against the Titans.
“It worked out well.”
Tabor said he still has confidence in WR/PR Travis Benjamin as a punt returner.
“We’re working through some things with (Benjamin),” he said. “I still haven’t given up on him.”
Cave added: The Browns added OL Braxston Cave to the practice squad to replace OL Patrick Lewis, who was added to the Seahawks active roster. Earlier, the Browns signed DL A.J. Pataiali’I to the practice squad and released LS Charley Hughlett.