Berea—Sunday morning’s practice looked more like a pre-game walk-through than a training camp session. Players wore helmets and shorts and rarely ran full speed during the abbreviated practice.
The story of the day was the running back group. Shaun Draughn came out of the locker room with a cast on his left hand. Mike Pettine revealed that Draughn took a shot on his thumb and the team decided to cast it as a precaution. To Pettine’s knowledge, there are no broken bones in the thumb, nor does he consider the injury to be serious.
Terrance West was back on the field in his helmet taking reps. West has missed the majority of reps during practice with a hamstring issue. Duke Johnson continued to sit out, as did Glenn Winston and Luke Lundy. Johnson was ruled out of the first preseason game on Thursday by Pettine after practice.
Mike Pettine has spoken about the frustration of not having the running backs all out there and getting reps. Following practice, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery discussed the running back situation.
“It’s not frustrating for me,” said Montgomery. “It’s just for the guys behind them it’s a golden opportunity to step up and show people what you can do.”
Montgomery still has confidence in Duke Johnson despite him missing practice since August 1. He said Duke has played in this system all through college and he knows that what Duke Johnson brings to the team is something different than what the rest of the backs (Crowell and West) can bring.
“Duke can be a slot receiver, he can line up wide and you can move him all over the field,” Montgomery said. “He’s a total mismatch. In my report, I wrote him up as a Thurman Thomas type running back when he came out.”
So far, no one running back has stood out to Montgomery as being a starter.
“We don’t have a bell cow guy,” said Montgomery referring to one back that can carry the load. “All the backs are doing well, the fact is that you’re looking for that guy that you can just strap the saddle on. Right now, it’s a close race.”
“Somebody has to say ‘hey, you know what this is my team, I want to be the guy’,” Montgomery continued. “I don’t want to get into that like I had to do last year. I want one guy that say hey, we know who the starter are, like the other 31 teams in the National Football League.”
When asked if there was a back that was standing out at all above the rest at all, Montgomery was pretty blunt.
“I have a hard time evaluating guys and grading them when they in their underwear. I call shorts and no pads in underwear,” Montgomery explained. “I want to see what they do with the pads on because I think that’s what separates them.”
“That’s what I really want out here in these next few weeks to see if somebody is willing to pick up the flag and run with it.”
Montgomery gave the impression that he believes the running backs need to be fighting through some of these injuries.
Defensive back Pierre Desir did not practice again, but Joe Haden was back in action after sitting out Saturday’s scrimmage with muscle tightness. Justin Gilbert was a full participant in practice with his wrist taped after injuring in during the Orange and Brown scrimmage.
Rookie Cameron Erving took some reps with the first team at right guard during 11-on-11 sessions, with John Greco playing center with the twos. Mike Pettine said that this was just part of the plan for bringing him along.
Defensive lineman Billy Winn was on the field and riding the bike with the rest of the walking wounded. Winn did not seem to be walking with any limp or difficulty. It was his first time back on the field since being carted off early on in camp.