Just when you thought the Cleveland Browns problems on the offensive line couldn't get worse, they may well be.
The Browns could end up with the entire second-string line on the field Sunday in New England. Left guard Shaun O'Hara and center Jeff Faine are hoping their injured knees can heal enough to get them back on the field, but that is still a long shot.
Now an injury to Ryan Tucker's lower leg could put his availability in doubt.
"When they told me to get ready to go in the game in the second half, I assumed it was for (Tucker)," said Gonzalez. "I thought I'd be playing right tackle. I didn't even know anything happened to Barry." Gonzalez said he still has no idea if he will be in the starting lineup Sunday, and if he is, he has no idea if he will play left or right tackle.
Tucker was seen today with his lower right leg wrapped. He also had crutches at his locker. According to Faine, however, the crutches belong to another offensive lineman. Tucker is listed as "Probable" with a chest injury on the official injury report, and Stokes, O'Hara and Faine are all listed as "Questionable" .
With left tackle Ross Verba already out for the year, the Browns finished the second half of last week's game with four-fifths of its starting offensive line from the preseason on the sideline.
"We actually didn't have to worry about continuity on the offensive line because the whole second team was in there," Gonzalez said.
When Verba was lost to a bicep injury in the final week of the preseason, Gonzalez switched his focus from right tackle to left tackle. With Stokes nursing an ankle injury since the second week of the year, Gonzalez has been forced to prepare for the opportunity to play.
"I've been fortunate that I've worked at left tackle since training camp," said Gonzalez. "I've been preparing like I was going to start every week."
The adjustment from right to left tackle has been mostly mental for Gonzalez, who has worked to get used to stepping with a different foot and to the thought that "I'm protecting the quarterback's blind side so don't give up a sack no matter what."
Gonzalez has also benefitted from the fraternity of University of Miami graduates, talking with former Hurricanes like Vikings' left tackle Bryan McKinnie and Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey.
"There are a lot of former Miami players around the league," said Gonzalez. "I'll talk to different guys to get their ideas on whoever we are playing that week ... If I play this week, who I go against will depend on whether I'm at left tackle or right tackle. Richard Seymour is their right defensive end, but I'll probably get a lot of looks and see a lot of different guys."
COUCH OR HOLCOMB? ... Kelly Holcomb said he still does not know if his fractured fibula has healed enough to allow him to start Sunday in New England.
When asked why he was capable of playing in the second half against San Diego but may not be ready to go a week later, he said Sunday "was only a quarter. Playing four quarters is a different thing. I haven't played four quarters in a while ... I want to play, but you have to be smart."
Holcomb downplayed reports of blood in his leg after Sunday's game.
"The bleeding was from bruising after the game," said Holcomb. "Now you have to deal with some of the swelling ... and the swelling is pretty much gone."
HOPING TO PRACTICE ... Prior to last week, Shaun O'Hara hadn't missed a single practice since becoming a Cleveland Brown in 2000. In fact, he hadn't missed a game going back to high school, and he can only remember missing two practices to injury in his entire college career at Rutgers.
"That's been the tough pill to swallow," said O'Hara, who had exploritory arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last week. "You feel like a wuss. Coaches look at you different. Other players look at you different. You feel like an outsider."
O'Hara still hasn't ruled out playing against the Patriots, and is hoping to practice later today.
"Ultimately, you have to let the specialists, doctors, decide," said O'Hara. "That's why we have those guys here. You may want to play, but you have to listen to them.
"I'm feeling better every day ... and every day I get more and more positive and excited. Whether I play or not will probably come down to Saturday."
Osborne is a 6-foot-4, 298-pound former fullback and tight end. After playing tight end in college at William and Mary, he played fullback on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad in in 2000. He was on Seattle and New Orleans' practice squads in 2001 before finishing the year as a tight end on the Buffalo Bills active roster in 2001, then spent 2002 out of football.
Osborne played offensive line with the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe this year, then went to training camp with the Saints. He added 35 pounds in the offseason to make the move from tight end to the offensive line.
Claxton is a 6-2, 301-pound center at Mississippi and a fifth-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos. He was released by the Broncos at the end of training camp.
FRISMAN STILL WAITING ... Frisman Jackson's broken leg is just fine, but he understands why he has to wait to come off the PUP list.
"I'm ready to go, but with all the problems on the offensive line, I just have to wait," Jackson said.
Rookie running back Lee Suggs, who had offseason shoulder surgery, is in the same situation.