BEREA— The Browns have already made a decision at the quarterback position, but they may have another decision to make in regards to the offensive line.
After rookie left guard Cam Erving made his first NFL start in Pittsburgh with Browns starting left guard Joel Bitonio sidelined by an ankle injury, it appears as though Erving’s second NFL start may not take place on Monday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Having rested his ailing ankle for just over two weeks, Bitonio returned to practice on Friday afternoon on a limited basis and indicated that he wants to try to give it a go against the Ravens.
"You want to play in as many games as you can and that's the next game right now,” Bitonio said. “That's what I'm trying to focus on, just do anything possible to get me ready to try and go on Monday.”
Though Bitonio wants to play on Monday, it’ll be hard for him to determine whether he’ll be effective until the game draws closer.
For now, he’ll just have to wait and see what he feels like waking up over the weekend.
“It's kind of early. I didn't do too crazy much out there, but it was good to be back out there and kind of run around,” Bitonio said. “I think we'll see tomorrow morning really how it responded and how that goes.”
Bitonio’s presence on the line would be helpful to a Browns running game that has struggled immensely this season, but in order for the lineman to start, head coach Mike Pettine feels he has to be physically close to 100%.
“If it’s a situation where he’s functional but maybe not 100 percent, you would maybe consider having him up and available in case you needed him,” Pettine said. “Those are all decisions we’ll just wait and see where he is with it, but that’s something that’s a decision we’ll have to make between now and game time.”
With a potential decision looming, should Bitonio be good to go, Pettine said that Erving made mistakes aplenty in his first start, but that the rookie would simply need more on-field experience to improve.
Erving, who may be his own biggest critic, agreed with his head coach.
“A lot of things I need to work on, but definitely some positives. A lot of positives,” Erving said. “I definitely know I have to minimize on those mistakes that I made, but overall I think I did pretty good for my first start.”
Of the things that Erving lacked in his first NFL start, energy was certainly not one.
In fact, the energy that Erving displayed was something that Pettine harped upon, when asked about the encouraging signs out of Cleveland’s rookie.
“We all saw there were a handful of glaring mistakes. The encouraging thing is it wasn’t for the lack of desire, of want-to,” Pettine said. “What we’re most pleased about is he played with an edge, he wanted to finish blocks and I thought his energy and his focus, he was in to it.”
Erving said that the aforementioned “want” is part of the way in which he can make up for some of the mistakes he’ll make in his rookie season, as it's something that's been instilled in him from his younger years.
“I was always told as a kid, ‘I don’t care if you make a mistake, just make it going 100 miles an hour.’ That’s how I’ve kind of modeled my play my whole life,” Erving said. “I may not know everything. I may not know every adjustment but I’m going to go in and I’m going to play hard and that’s all I can ask of myself, is go in and play hard and minimize those errors that I made.”
Whether it’s Erving that plays against Baltimore on Monday night or Bitonio that gets the start, the Browns believe they’ll be in good hands at the left guard position.
“If (Erving) has to start, we’re confident that’s why we’re in no rush to push Joel back out there,” Pettine said. “Cam needs to play and this will be a great – this is a good front seven – this will be a good opportunity for him.”
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