Chaun Thompson Starting This Sunday?

If you weren't a Bernie's Insiders subscriber, the name Chaun Thompson came as a complete surprise during last year's draft. Even if you were, his selection in the second round raised eyebrows. Now, Browns fans may be able to see more of what he can do, as Mike McLain reports from Berea...

BEREA - Ben Taylor is out, and Brant Boyer and Barry Gardner are hobbled by leg injuries.

The Browns picked a bad week to face Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, who is closing in on his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season.

"We're going to have to have some guys step up and play well," outside linebacker Kevin Bentley said. "That's the thing about this league. I don't think there's such a thing as a backup because you're only one play away from starting for the rest of the year."

Taylor was hospitalized several days because of a staph infection in an elbow. Doctors had trouble keeping his fever under control, and he suffered from headaches. Although he was released from the hospital earlier this week, Taylor isn't well enough to play Sunday in Seattle.

Boyer has calf and knee injuries. He missed Wednesday's and Thursday's practices but participated in Friday's light session. Garnder has knee and ankle injuries. He sat out Wednesday's practice but was able to do limited work Thursday.

The injuries mean that rookie Chaun Thompson could get the first start of his NFL career. Thompson, a second-round draft pick, has two tackles in limited defensive time. He has 10 tackles on special teams.

Thompson refused media requests for interviews Friday. He said a few words during a quick stop in the locker room.

"It's always exciting to be able to play," he said. "I'm always ready."

Thompson held out of training camp in a contract dispute and missed the first nine days and 13 practices. Shortly after signing a five-year, $3.5 million contract, Thompson said it would take him just a few days to catch up with his teammates.

It didn't take Thompson long to realize he was mistaken. He soon realized the harsh reality of how difficult it is for a rookie to make an immediate impact in the NFL.

"You want someone to come in with confidence like that, but you learn on your own that the game isn't going to be that way," Bentley said. "The game is a lot different than college. The guys are a lot bigger and it's a lot faster. Everyone comes in with the expectation that, 'I'm going to be an All Pro.' You can get there if you continue to work hard, and he's done that."

Gardner thinks that Thompson is up for the challenge.

"He'll do fine," Gardner said. "He's a good guy. He's a good player. That's something you can't coach. He all ready has the right attitude for the game. I think he'll go out there and do well."

Alexander, a first-round draft pick in 2000, had 1,318 rushing yards in 2001 and 1,175 yards last season. He has 907 yards on 218 carries through 11 games this year.

"He's another great back in the NFL," middle linebacker Andra Davis said. "He brings his own style. He's pretty big. He gets the job done."  


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