Changing of the Guard?

Who is this handsome devil, and why is he on the front page of Bernie's Insiders? Well, Mike McLain explains who and why, in his update from the Browns-Bills weekend in Rochester. Here's the very latest...

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Browns coach Butch Davis confirmed after Friday's practice that linebacker Brant Boyer broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during the morning practice against the Buffalo Bills. Boyer was flown back to Cleveland for surgery.

Boyer's loss hurts in more ways than one. He's a valuable backup at all the linebacker spots, and he might be the best special-teams player on the roster.

Boyer is the personal protector for the punter. As the person who makes calls and is the last line of defense for the punter, Boyer's role is invaluable.

Chris Crocker and Ben Taylor have taken snaps as the personal protector. "You can't replace Brant, but you try to uphold what he's brought to the table," Taylor said.

Outside linebacker Warrick Holdman said that Boyer will be missed.

"Every linebacker position, he knows what to do," Holdman said. "You rarely find that. When you do, you want to be around him and learn from him, and I'm not even going to talk about how good he is on special teams. When you lose him, it's a real big blow."

The linebacker spots have been hit hard. Earlier this week Chaun Thompson suffered a broken bone in his wrist. Thompson had surgery and is expected to miss at least two preseason games.

Starting middle linebacker Andra Davis missed both practices to attend the funeral of his grandfather, and Mason Unck, a backup in the middle, didn't make the trip because of a hamstring injury. Barry Gardner moved to the middle to replace Andra. Boyer was on the field backing up Gardner.

Paul Zukauskas could be ready to move ahead of Chad Beasley at left guard. Butch announced after Friday's afternoon practice that Zukauskas will see time time with the first team during today's scrimmage. Beasley has received most of the time at the position since camp opened, but Zukauskas' time with the unit increased Friday.

"I'll tell you what, Paul has had a very good camp so far," Davis said. " You don't want to make any battlefield promotions when you're just going against ourselves. He did some good things in the drills back in Berea.

"The next step is to take that improvement and transfer it against another team. Paul has done some interesting things. We'll give him a couple of snaps playing with the first team just to see how he responds."

Zukauskas feels this is a crucial camp for him.

"This is kind of a make-or-break season," Zukauskas said. "It's one of those things where you really have to improve yourself in the fourth season and try to win a job. To be second string, you have to come out and act like a starter and try to develop a reputation with the coaches."

THE M*A*S*H UNIT: Offensive left tackle Ross Verba pulled a groin during the morning practice and was replaced by Enoch DeMar in the afternoon. Verba said there's a chance he might not participate in today's scrimmage.

Cornerback Michael Lehan suffered a mild sprain in his left foot in the morning and didn't practice in the afternoon. Butch said there's a chance Lehan could play in the scrimmage.


Bills running back Willis McGahee played at Miami with Browns' first-round draft choice Kellen Winslow, who remains a holdout. McGahee said that Winslow should go for the money. "I like his attitude," McGahee said. "He's not scared of anybody. The only other (tight end) like that is (former Miami player) Jeremy Shockey. Both of them are great tight ends."

Quarterback Jeff Garcia looked sharp, but he did overthrow Quincy Morgan in the end zone during the two-minute drills in the afternoon. Rookie quarterback Luke McCown completed consecutive passes to Andre King and Darnell Sanders to score in the two-minute drill. Neither first-team offense scored in the two-minute drill in the afternoon.

Running back William Green is running well behind the first- and second-team lines. He said he can't wait to be tackled for the first time since he last played in a game, last October against San Diego.

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