BEREA— The Browns received some good news Wednesday as their Pro Bowl safety returned to the field.
Donte Whitner returned to practice on the final day before the Browns players take a long weekend on their bye week. Whitner left the Cardinals game with a concussion on Nov. 1 and has missed the last two games being in the NFL's concussion protocol.
"It's great to have one of our guys back," linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "It's always a positive to get one of your leaders back on the field. The guys that filled in for him did a great job, but to get our leader who's been in the league for 10 years back is huge for our defense."
Whitner started the first eight games of the season and has 55 tackles with 1/2 sack. He has three passes broken up and forced one fumble. Despite missing two games, Whitner is still second on the team behind Karlos Dansby.
Whitner, 30, is in his second season after signing as an unrestricted free agent in 2014. He played in all 16 games in 2014 and had 106 tackles with one interception, five passes broken up and a forced fumble.
Overall, Whitner is in his 10th NFL season after being selected in the first round by the Buffalo Bills (8th overall) in the 2006 NFL Draft. After playing five seasons with the Bills, Whitner played three seasons with the 49ers before returning to his hometown of Cleveland where he played at Glenville High School and Ohio State. Whitner was selected to the Pro Bowl after each of the past three seasons, two with the 49ers and one with the Browns.
Haden, Gabriel. Hawkins Still Out: DB Joe Haden, WR Taylor Gabriel and WR Andrew Hawkins all remain in the concussion protocol and were not at practice. OL Joel Bitonio (ankle) and DL Randy Starks (knee) were not at practice. Mike Pettine said that Bitonio had an “outside chance” to play against the Ravens on Nov. 30. TE Gary Barnidge was practicing but was wearing a red “non-contact” jersey.
“Joel’s (Bitonio) still pushing through it, potentially an outside chance for Baltimore,” Pettine said Tuesday. “We’ll know a little bit more as the week goes on. The guys that I said were in the concussion protocol are still in it. Joe (Haden) is still in it. We’ll know more. They’re improving, there’s no setbacks but still you have to go through the process. (Randy) Starks tweaked the knee. It was nothing serious but still this close removed from the game we still don’t have a great feel for how that’s going to play out.”
Erving Start: OL Cameron Erving started his first game against the Steelers last week and will start against the Ravens if Bitonio isn’t able to play.
Pettine was asked how he performed overall.
“There were some glaring mistakes, I think we all saw some of those,” Pettine said. “In between that he did some good things. The thing I was most proud of was the energy, the enthusiasm, the toughness that he brought. Trying to finish blocks and getting after guys when he could from an opponent standpoint. I liked the mentality that he played with I just thought he was raw and excited and kind of all over the place and that led to some of his mistakes. But a lot of what he did wrong was very correctable. Nothing’s changed in our assessment of Cam that he has a bright future in this league.”
Taking a Break: The Browns players practiced for the final time on Wednesday before getting an extended weekend for the bye week. The players will be off from Thursday through Monday.
Turbin Signs: The Cowboys signed former Browns RB Robert Turbin and ironically, Turbin took the roster spot of former Browns QB Brandon Weeden, who was released on Tuesday.