The Cleveland Browns' group of running backs is getting thinner by the day. Saturday's first padded practices claimed two running backs, Terrance West and Duke Johnson, and on Sunday, Luke Lundy came off the field with trainers and did not return to practice, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot. Meanwhile, Glenn Winston continues to rehab his knee injury; he, along with West and Johnson, spent Sunday's practice on the stationary bikes.
West injured his calf, while Johnson suffered a tweaked hamstring. The latter is a more significant injury, with head coach Mike Pettine saying on Sunday (via Cabot) that West could return to the field as early as Tuesday, when the Browns' next practice takes place. But, that still leaves the Browns shorthanded at the running back position, and as such, Pettine said the team "will consider" making an addition at the position during Monday's day off. Right now, just Isaiah Crowell and Shaun Draughn remain as the two healthy Browns backs.
There are a number of capable free agent running backs still on the market, including Shonn Greene, Chris Johnson, Pierre Thomas, Joe McKnight, and one-time omnipresent Browns back Chris Ogbonnaya, plus a considerable pool of undrafted rookies. So the Browns should have little trouble finding someone who can round out the roster for a few days or weeks.
The real concern, however, is Johnson's status for the 2015 season. Though Pettine is confident that West will re-join his teammates in short order, Johnson "will be out a little while" according to the coach. And the longer he is sidelined, the fewer reps he'll get and the less prepared he'll be for the start of the regular season. Also having Johnson out means tweaking the offense; there were plays called specifically for him.
And hamstring injuries can linger, not just for months but for years, even if they seem minor initially. Look at how hamstring issues have affected the careers of running backs Arian Foster and Darren McFadden—one hamstring injury can beget another, and strengthening the area can be a difficult rehabilitation process when Johnson plays a position that is particularly punishing on a player's legs.
That's not to say that Johnson's rookie year will be marred by this injury, but it's one worth monitoring through the rest of the summer, even when he does finally return to practice. Numerous aspects of the Browns' offensive plans center around Johnson's singular skill set and losing him for any stretch of time once September rolls around could significantly alter what that side of the ball looks like this year.
But for now, the goal is to get the running backs group to be as healthy as possible. Until then, the Pettine, his coaching staff and general manager Ray Farmer will spend at least some time on Monday seeking out at least one back from the free agent pool who can fill in until West, Johnson and Winston are able to participate in practice.