BEREA—The task doesn’t get any easier for the Browns.
At 2-6, the bruised and battered Browns will take on the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals (7-0) in a nationally televised game on Thursday night in Cincinnati. Losers of their last three games and five of six, the Browns will likely be without the services of at least two Pro Bowl players from their secondary and possibly their quarterback.
Joe Haden and Donte Whitner both left Sunday’s game with the Cardinals in the third quarter after suffering concussions. With both being in the NFL’s concussion protocol, it is unlikely either will be cleared in time in order to play. Quarterback Josh McCown was banged up, as well, and with the short week, his status is unknown.
On top of that, the NFL trade deadline is Tuesday and there were some rumors leaked to the NFL Network that suggested the Browns were shopping some of their key players, including Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo.
However, the players say they can put that all behind them and go to Cincinnati ready to play.
“We are looking forward to it,” Gary Barnidge said. “We are excited about it. We are getting ready for them. We are looking forward to it. It is a good opportunity for us, and our mindset is great.”
Tashaun Gipson said the Browns would’ve liked to have some momentum going to Cincinnati coming off a win.
“It’s a little tough, a little different,” he said. “We’d really like coming off a victory in a short week, but that’s what we get paid for as professionals win, lose or draw.
“It’s a short week against a good opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals and we just have to be ready to go out there and have one of our best games on defense.”
Barnidge said he doesn’t think the team will let the loss over the Cardinals linger and carry over to this week’s game with the Bengals.
“You can’t worry about it,” Barnidge said. “The season is one game at a time. You can’t worry about the previous game. You have to get past it as soon as it is over and move on to the next one. You can’t let one loss turn into another loss turn into another loss. You have to turn it around and fix it the next week.”
A silver lining for the Browns is a year ago, the Browns traveled to Cincinnati in the nationally televised game and soundly defeated the Bengals 24-3 on Nov. 6, 2014 to improve to 6-3 at the time.
Mike Pettine said the team can point to last year’s game to show what they can accomplish if they come together.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Pettine said. “I have a feeling a lot of people outside this building don’t give us much of a chance. That’s the beauty of sports is that we get to go down there and play. Just like last year, similar circumstances and we went down there and played one of our best games, so we know that when our minds are right and we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and playing at a high level emotionally and physically, we can play with anybody. We have to go down there with that mentality.”
Pettine said going through the short week’s schedule can be beneficial in preparation.
“Having played (last year) and going through the short week’s schedule last year and then going down there and playing well, for the guys that were here should give them some confidence,” he said. “I think we went down there fresh and focused and it showed up on the field. I think you can carry that over, but from a team standpoint, they’re doing different things, we are as well. From a football standpoint, you can put some stock in it, but not much.”
Gipson said the team’s mindset, despite being 2-6 is honing in on the two upcoming AFC North games.
“Absolutely. I feel like the one important thing is that we are coached upon is that division games count as two and as we stand at 1-0 in the division now,” Gipson said. “It might seem far-fetched to a lot of people, but we understand how important these division games are and what they mean. (Being) 2-6 doesn’t mean the end of the world for us. At the end of the day we can control what we can control at this point. It doesn’t mean we’re out of the playoffs. There’s hope.”
Haden, Whitner Likely Out: Pettine wouldn’t confirm that either DB Joe Haden or DB Donte Whitner would miss Thursday’s game due to concussion, but DB Tashaun Gipson said that he didn’t think either would play.
“Once they’re in the protocol, it would be extremely difficult to have them cleared in time for Thursday,” Pettine said. “I’m not going to rule them out.”
Pettine said WR Andrew Hawkins was still in the concussion protocol and he wasn’t sure if DB Jordan Poyer (shoulder) would be able to play.
McCown Day-to-Day: Pettine said that QB Josh McCown and won’t know his status until likely game day.
“Josh is sore,” Pettine said. “It’s difficult because it’s a short week. He’s day to day and we’ll know more when we get into Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Pettine said he doesn’t think he would’ve done anything different with regards to taking McCown out of the game.
“I had a conversation with Josh (Monday) and the medical staff does a good job of checking them out,” he said. “They all know they should go down and get medical attention.”
Barnidge said he didn’t think that McCown needed to be taken out of the game Sunday because of injury.
“That is the coaches’ call, but I don’t think it affected him one bit,” Barnidge said. “I think Josh was still doing everything he can do to win. He was playing well. Nothing was affecting him throwing the ball or anything like that. I don’t think there were any issues with that at all.”
Barnidge also said he was unaware of the trade rumors that were circulating Sunday morning among the team, but said he didn’t think it affected the game.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “We don’t really worry about that kind of stuff. That stuff is going to happen one way or another anyways. You really can’t focus on that. You can’t let it affect your play or anything with the team because it is all about the team. We are not worried about any of the outside stuff.”
Will he Stay?: Barnidge has become the breakout player on the Browns offense this season with career bests in receptions with 40 and 567 yards for a 14.2 avg. He also has six touchdowns. Barnidge is in the final year of his contract and was asked if he would like to stay with the Browns.
“I enjoy it a lot,” he said. “I love my time here. I have enjoyed it. 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. I enjoy it here.”
He said he hasn’t thought about the possibility of becoming a free agent after his productive season.
“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.”
Why Bademosi over Desir: When Haden left Sunday’s game with a concussion, DB Johnson Bademosi took over for Haden, instead of CB Pierre Desir, who had been starting while Haden was out.
“Bademosi was up and already in the game in a package and (the coaches) decided to extend him into taking Haden’s reps,” Pettine said.
No Confidence?: Pettine defended the perception that he lacked confidence in QB Johnny Manziel because he seemed to not want to go to him when opportunities presented themselves.
“He’s our backup,” Pettine said. “When our starter was hurt against the Jets, for the most part did a good job. He did a good job in preparing the next week.”
Pettine said that McCown is playing well for the Browns.
“Josh McCown is doing a great job for us playing the position,” he said. “We feel good about where Johnny is and the direction he is heading.”