After the Browns 31-7 win over Tampa Bay Saturday, Mike Pettine said one of the negatives was the injury to rookie running back Duke Johnson.
"If you had to say the biggest downer of the night, that would be it."
The rookie third-round draft choice from Miami suffered a concussion in his first action of the preseason for the Browns after having sat out the first two games with a hamstring injury. Johnson was to figure big into the Browns offensive plans. Johnson suffered the concussion when he went high for a pass from Josh McCown on third-and-11 and was hit by cornerback Mike Jenkins.
“We have seen what he can do in practice and that is important,” Pettine said. “That is why we were so positive and optimistic about it. Football is about availability. He hasn’t been available for much of the preseason. While we are hopeful about the potential, at the same time, it is discouraging to not have him out there.”
On Sunday, Pettine had no update on Johnson’s condition.
“There’s no update there,” Pettine said. “He’s in the NFL concussion protocol. We’ll know more as the week goes on.”
Pettine said there’s a fine line that NFL coaches have to work with in getting players ready for the regular season, but avoiding injuries.
“It’s a fine line with the preseason,” Pettine said. “You want to minimize guys’ exposure, but at the same time, you want to get them work. You see what the whole league is going through. You want them out there, but then there’s the risk of injury. Young guys that haven’t played against NFL competition, you always want to get them out there and get an evaluation so you can get a taste of what regular season will be like.”
Earlier in training camp, the Browns were down the majority of their backs with Glenn Winston (knee), Shaun Draughn (broken hand), Terrance West (calf) and Johnson out with injuries and had to add Jalen Parmele and Timothy Flanders.
Draughn is still wearing a soft cast on his hand, but did play against Tampa Bay.
“Yeah, getting Shaun back certainly helps,” Pettine said. “He did take some special teams reps last night. We will wait and see how long Duke is potentially out. We have a whole series of meetings this afternoon. We will start with the (defense) first and then we will get to the offense, and the running back will likely be one of the first topics discussed.”
Pettine was asked if the Browns would need to bring in another back if Johnson is deemed to be out for significant time. He also was asked if bringing in Ray Rice was a possibility.
“We will see where the conversation takes us,” he said. I think we need the medical report first to see where Shaun is. Make sure the other guys came out of it OK, get an update on Duke and weigh all those factors.
“If we do come to the decision that we need to add a back that is not here, we’ll look at the list of backs that are available.”
Meanwhile, Isaiah Crowell and West showed some flashes in the running game against Tampa Bay. Particularly on the first drive of the third quarter when the Browns drove 78 yards for a touchdown.
“We ran the ball and had two big runs back-to-back (on the drive),” Pettine said.
West had a 17-yard run and finished with 26 yards, while Crowell had 25. Overall, the Browns rushed for 119 yards.
Not Make or Break for Pryor: Most observers felt that WR Terrelle Pryor must show what he can do as a wide receiver to have a chance of making the final roster, but Pettine said that’s not necessarily true.
“I don’t want to say make or break,” Pettine said. “I’m not going to deal with an absolute, saying he has to play, but we want to see him out there. We’re hopeful he’ll be out there. I can’t say today that he definitely will, but he should be. We’re hopeful. He was close to being able to go, and give it another week, we’re hopeful he’ll be out there and we’ll be able to see him.”
“We’ll meet and have personnel meetings, but I think the starting five will be tough to crack, but that’s not a slight against Cam in the least,” Pettine said. “We’re very encouraged in seeing what he can do.”
Bowe Debut: WR Dwayne Bowe played for the first time in the preseason and didn’t seem to be on the same page as QB Josh McCown.
“That’s a part of two new guys in a new system,” Pettine said. “They just need to play together. They didn’t have very much practice time together and that showed up in the game.”
Bowe failed to catch a pass on three balls thrown his direction. On the first play of the game, he dropped the pass from McCown.
Rush Defense: Pettine was asked if he feels the Browns defensive line is much stronger than last year’s team.
“Theres definite improvement,” he said. “The addition of the two rookies (Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper), we think are going to be solid players. You saw (against Tampa Bay), if they double Danny, that frees up others.”
“The strength of that room is their depth.”
McCown Rests: Pettine announced that QB Josh McCown will not play in the preseason finale next Thursday against the Bears. He said a number of players won’t play.
“We’ll make that decision (Sunday),” he said. “Josh will not play against Chicago and we’ll rest a number of guys Thursday.”
Manziel Update: Pettine said the plan is to just give QB Johnny Manziel's sore elbow rest, but doesn’t think that will weigh into the decision to keep more than two quarterbacks on the active roster.
“Theres a prescribed time of rest for him,” he said. “I’ll (for rest), but get the time table given the MRI was negative, we think rest will be the answer. There’s no need to think beyond that.”
Manziel will be held out of this week’s game, as well.
Roster Moves: The Browns have to reduce their roster from 90 players to 75 by 4 p.m Tuesday. Pettine said the and GM Ray Farmer will meet later today and make some of the decisions.
“I have to get with Ray, I’m not sure when we’ll make those moves.”