BEREA—There’s been a lot of talk about letting the young players play as the Browns sit at 2-7 with one week before the bye.
However, Mike Pettine said it would be a disservice to just let the young players play to see what they can do.
One young player who is going to finally get his chance to start is first-round pick Cameron Erving, due to the ankle injury suffered by left guard Joel Bitonio in last week’s game against the Bengals.
Bitionio sat out Tuesday’s practice with the ankle injury and Pettine already ruled him out.
With Joel Bitonio potentially being down for a while, Cam Erving will step in at a left guard spot,” Pettine said. “We’ll get a good look at Cam. That’s a positive. Been wanting to get him out there. He’s performed well in practice. He’s been into it.”
Erving is excited to start his first NFL game against the Steelers.
“I’m excited to play,” Erving said. “I’m definitely excited, but I’m not going to get too excited, too high or too emotional early in the week. It’s all about preparation for this weekend and knowing what Pittsburgh is doing. It’s all new to me, so I’m learning. I’m a rookie so I’m going to lean on (the other offensive linemen).”
Erving will be between Pro Bowlers Joe Thomas and Alex Mack at left guard, where Bitonio was when he first played in 2014.
“I think he’s ready,” Thomas said. “I’m excited to see what he can do. It’s time to do it on the biggest stage against our biggest rival.”
Erving was selected 19th overall by the Browns and most assumed he would immediately step in at right guard in place of John Greco. However, through the preseason and the first nine games of the regular season, he hasn’t been able to crack the lineup until now via injury.
Erving said he’s tried to stay ready each week.
“It’s been tough, but I’ve leaned on guys like Joe and Joel, as well,” Erving said. “There was a short amount of time that (Bitonio in his rookie training camp that he) wasn’t starting the whole time. It’s just about preparing yourself every week and knowing that you need to play that you might play or you might not play. There’s a lot of uncertainty there, but I’ve done a good job I feel like and a lot of guys have complimented me how I’ve been ready and prepared when the time comes. I’m just looking forward to going out and seizing the opportunity.”
Erving said he’s tried to stay positive while not playing.
“It’s easy to surround yourself in negativity when you’re in those situations,” he said. “People have been in my ear since the season started, but I’ve kept my faith and I stay rooted in knowing my time is going to come. I didn’t get picked in the first round for nothing and my chance is going to come. I’m just being patient and this is my first opportunity.”
Erving has played in all nine games as a reserve at right guard, field goal protect, tight end in jumbo package until he replaced Bitonio last week against Cincinnati. He played left tackle and center at Florida State and had been used mostly on the right side of the line with the Browns in training camp.
He said the limited experience thus far has helped him adjust to the speed of the game.
“It’s helped with development because I got to see the speed when out there,” he said.
Erving said it doesn’t matter where he plays, despite his inexperience at guard.
“Offensive line is all about having a level of comfort at each position,” Erving said. “I don’t mean to sound cocky and know people have a lot of questions about different positions, but I’m a football player and I like to play football and I’m going to do put everything into whatever the team needs me to do. I’m going to go out and play football.
“Offensive line is the offensive line and I feel the coaches have gone out there and helped me prepare to play,” he said. “I’m a football player, it’s football. I love to play (the game). It’s a different level and I’m just going out and playing.”
McCown Day-to-Day: QB Josh McCown has not been ruled out for Sunday’s game with the Steelers and Pettine said if McCown is able to play without limitations, he will play ahead of QB Johnny Manziel.
“Improving,” Pettine said. “I think this period of time helped but I would still consider him day-to-day. He’s going to work out a little bit this afternoon with (head athletic trainer) Joe Sheehan. We’ll see how he responds to that. I think day to day is the safest way, most accurate way to list it.”
Pettine said the Browns are preparing for McCown not playing.
“We’re planning otherwise. Hopefully, we’ll know soon. That’s not a decision, especially with the quarterback, that you want to wait until the end of the week so we’ll see.”
Pettine was asked if McCown would start if he’s able to practice.
“I want to wait to hear that he’s healthy in order to make it, but if he’s ready to go and able to execute the game plan and not have to change the way you call a game to protect a guy, then yeah, he will be.”
Some thinking is the Browns are at 2-7 and it might be time to just declare Manziel the starter for the rest of the season, but Pettine said that’s not the case yet.
“That decision has not been made,” Pettine said. “I’d rather answer that question when that happens. We’ve said all along that Josh McCown started the season as our No. 1 quarterback, and he’s been out due to injury and potentially coming back. I get the call for ‘Hey, why not?’ but we’re tasked as coaches to put the roster out there that’s going to give us the best opportunity to win. I understand that as the year goes on those circumstances can change, but we’ll see. We’ll get the information as it comes out with Josh and react to it accordingly.”
Gaines, Winston Up: With the roster moves of releasing LB Jayson DiManche and DB De’Ante Saunders the Browns replaced them with rookie DB Charles Gaines and RB Glenn Winston.
“That was a tough call because I think Robert has proven he’s a NFL-caliber back, did some good things for us. I think it essentially came to the numbers,” Pettine said. “It’s hard to justify carrying four backs. (RB) Glenn Winston is a player that we’ve had around here for a while. Unfortunately, had the injury, but we’re very anxious to see where he is. He’s done a good job when he’s been out there. That was the move we had to make in order to get him up. With Glenn elevated to the 53 in that role of the third back, I think it’s time to get a peek and see what’s there. He’s shown a lot on the practice field, a lot, but we have to see if he can carry over to the game.”
Gaines, the sixth-round draft pick showed promise in the preseason but injured his hamstring in the final preseason game and was placed on injured reserve, designated for return.
Armonty Excused: LB Armonty Bryant was absent from practice Tuesday for personal reasons according to Pettine.
Telfer Practicing: Rookie TE Randdall Telfer practiced for the first time since being placed on the Reserve/non-football injury list. Telfer was drafted in the sixth-round from USC. Pettine said there is a three-week window for him to be activated once he begins practice.
Hawkins,Hartline Return: The Browns wide receivers received a boost with the return of WR Brian Hartline and WR Andrew Hawkins to practice after being cleared from the concussion protocol. However, DB Joe Haden and DB Donte Whitner are still in the protocol. DB Jordan Poyer returned to practice with a shoulder injury.