BEREA - Lee Suggs could still have a chance to play in the season opener after all.
According to Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis, Suggs showed dramatic improvement Friday when his shoulder strength was tested by team trainers Friday morning. The second-year running back hasn't practiced since suffering a neck stinger Sep. 1.
"We still have 48 hours," said Davis . "Just going by what the trainers said when he did his therapy, treatment and rehab before practice, they said there was a dramatic difference even over (Thursday)."
Suggs still wasn't cleared by team doctors to participate in Friday's practice, and that all but sealed William Green's return as the Browns starting running back, at least for Sunday's game with the Baltimore Ravens. Davis typically will not start a player who misses a significant amount practice in the week before a game.
"There are times when guys who don't practice on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, sometimes they may have to start," said Davis. "It's not my preference, but they may have to start because of injuries and there are no other alternatives."
But in Green, who hasn't started or played in a game since Oct. 19, 2003 due to injury and suspension, there is another alternative. Suggs was the starter throughout training camp and the preseason, but Green entered the week listed right along with Suggs as co-No. 1 running backs atop the Browns depth chart.
With Suggs sidelined, Green has taken all the practice snaps with the first-string offense this week.
"If someone who takes all the reps during the course of the week does a good job, and as a coaching staff you feel comfortable about (him), you may start him and then bring the other guy in at some point during the course of the game," said Davis. "A lot of it depends on the injury and the experience of the guy."
Suggs has a good grasp of the Browns system after a full training camp preparing to be the starter. Now that he has full range of motion in his shoulder, all the pain and numbness is gone, and the strength is returning, it is possible he could see some action in relief of Green Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Terry Robiske hinted that he is anxious to evoke memories of some of the great old Browns running attacks of the past by using both Green and Suggs.
"We are going to try to get it back to the Mike Pruitt's and Greg Pruitt's and see if we can pound the ball a little bit," said Robiske.
That gameplan won't change if Green ends up being the only healthy feature back Sunday.
"William is ready to play," said Robiske. "He has had a wonderful camp and a wonderful summer. He has been focused. He has been working second team and he's been doing a great job."