Just when things were looking up for the Cleveland Browns, the team lost one of its key offensive weapons.
The Browns lost Rickey Dudley for the rest of the season when they were forced to put the veteran tight end on the Reserve-Injured List. Dudley suffered a right mid-foot sprain early in Sunday's 20-16 win over the Chargers. In what coach Butch Davis called "a gutsy" performance, Dudley finished the game, catching three passes for a game-best 63 yards.
Dudley finished his season with nine catches for 115 yards, including a long reception of 27 yards against the Chargers.
"It is very unfortunate that Rickey's injury has forced us to place him on reserve-injured," said Dwight Clark, Cleveland Browns Executive Vice President and Director of Football Operations. "He had been a contributor in every game and we looked for him to be a major part of the offense in future weeks. His abilities both on the field and in the locker room will be missed."
With Dudley out, the Browns' tight end roll will most likely be filled by either Aaron Shea or O.J. Santiago. Shea has been used both as a tight end and an H-back in his second season. He has just one catch for 10 yards.
Santiago, A five-year veteran who was extremely productive in the passing game during the preseason, has only been active for two of the Browns' four regular-season games. The Kent State grad has 59 career catches for 819 yards and 7 touchdowns, all coming during his first three seasons as a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
The Browns also placed defensive tackle Marcus Spriggs on the Reserve-Injured List with a broken forearm. He has been replaced on the 53-man roster by defensive tackle Alvin McKinley, who was activated from the practice squad.
Several changes were made to the Browns' practice squad Tuesday. Defensive back Deke Cooper was waived, while defensive tackle Gaylon Hyder and defensive back Dyshod Carter were added to the squad.
Carter was a four-year starter at Kansas State. The 5-foot-10, 197-pound rookie originally signed as a free agent with Kansas City.
Hyder spent two seasons with the St. Louis Rams, appearing in nine games with one starting assignment. The 6-5, 290-pound signed with the Rams as a rookie free agent in 1999 after playing college ball at Texas Christian.