OBR News and World Report: 8/8

There's nothing like the lemony-fresh smell of a newly scrubbed-up batch of Browns news. John Taylor delivers again today, with a batch of injury news. It starts bad, then gets better, so keep reading even if the first 10 paragraphs make you want to hurl yourself from a tall building and/or cliff.

"I think that it's absurd to think the team is jinxed."---center LeCharles Bentley 8/2/06

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and hazard a guess that that particular memo never reached Bob Hallen's back or Gary Baxter's knee.

The training camp that began with so much promise continued its downward medical spiral yesterday as both Hallen and Baxter were held out of the second of the two-a-day practices due to their injuries.

Hallen, who replaced Bentley as the starting center following the Pro Bowler's season-ending knee injury, is suffering from back spasms and is, according to head coach Romeo Crennel, "out indefinitely". Crennel added that Hallen suffered these same back spasms while in San Diego, although a quick Google search of Hallen's injuries while with the Chargers revealed only a torn pectoral muscle.

Replacing Hallen for the time being is Alonzo Ephraim—he of the five career NFL starts—and Rob Smith—who apparently sweats like a whore in church, which has caused problems on center exchanges between himself and wannabe #2 quarterback Derek Anderson.

(The sweating has been causing problems, not that Anderson thinks of Smith as a whore in church. Just wanted to clear that up.)

As for Baxter, the cornerback tweaked his knee during a drill yesterday morning and was held out of the afternoon practice by the medical staff as a precaution. An MRI was performed, Crennel said, and no major structural damage was found.

Of course, that could mean something minor may have been found and it's an injury that could linger or, in a worst case scenario, get worse.

For example, offensive tackle Ryan Tucker "tweaked" his left knee during the second day of camp and was held out of the rest of that day's practices. At the time, a precautionary MRI was taken even as Crennel was downplaying the injury.

Two days later, it was learned that Tucker would be forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery on the knee, which will keep the veteran out for most if not all of the preseason games.

As pencil-thin as the depth on the offensive line has become—they moved Andrew Hoffman from the defensive line to the offensive line, for crying out loud—the secondary, particularly the cornerback position, is not far behind.

Thus far, the secondary has lost Daylon McCutcheon and rookie DeMario Minter to knee injuries. McCutcheon, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on the same day as Tucker and is expected back around the same time as the tackle, had been involved in a pitched battle with Leigh Bodden for the starting spot opposite Baxter and is expected to be, at the bare minimum, a key component in nickel packages, while Minter was drafted in the fifth round to provide depth in the secondary and special team's play.

Even before Baxter's tweak, both Crennel and general manager Phil Savage realized the dearth of available bodies and signed seven-year veteran corner Ralph Brown on Sunday.


Needless to say, the Browns will be searching both the waiver wire and potential trade partners for insurance against Hallen missing an extended period of time.

"We'll have to do our homework, see what's available and go from there," Crennel told reporters.

One potential avenue for a trade is the Philadelphia Eagles. Seven-year veteran Hank Fraley lost his starting job earlier this summer to Jamaal Jackson and is said to be unhappy with the demotion.

Fraley missed the last eight games of the 2005 season with a shoulder injury, during which time Jackson entered the starting lineup and impressed the coaching staff enough that he was ostensibly named the starter at the beginning of camp. He also signed a seven-year contract extension before the start of camp, while Fraley is entering the final year of his contract and has yet to be approached about an extension.

Fraley became the Eagles starter in 2001 and started in all but one game up until his injury last season.


A trade for Fraley would be somewhat of a risky proposition for Savage, given that the veteran can become a free agent at the end of the season and could be lost with no compensation in return. Also, getting him could be expensive, with the likely cost being a first-day draft pick and/or a player such as Lee Suggs.

With Savage loathe to give up draft picks, that would seem unlikely.

However, Fraley could also provide insurance against the possibility of Bentley not being able to return at full strength from his injury. And, even if Bentley were to return at full strength with Fraley on the roster, Bentley has played at a Pro Bowl-level at guard in the NFL and could easily slide over to that position with little or no problem.


There was a rumor floating around the Internet over the weekend that quarterback Charlie Frye had injured the thumb on his throwing hand. As it turns out, there was more than a kernel of truth to the story.

General manager Phil Savage, speaking to the Akron Beacon Journal, confirmed that Frye had indeed suffered the rumored injury during a practice last Wednesday.

The injury wasn't enough to keep him out of the scrimmage on Friday, but it did affect the way he threw the ball during a less-than-stellar performance.

"Obviously there were a couple balls he threw that (the sore thumb) had an effect (on)," Savage told the paper.

"He has thrown the ball better this year. I don't think he was 100 percent the other night. So I think people are questioning this, that or the other. And I think as we get into this, he's going to be fine."

Both Frye and Crennel had denied there was anything wrong, injury-wise, with the second-year QB following the scrimmage. However, Frye was seen speaking at length with the medical staff following his lone series of the night.


Now for some good news on the injury front.

A Browns insider tells The OBR that both Tucker and McCutcheon are progressing "very well, very nicely" from their respective surgeries and, barring an unexpected setback, will be on the field for the Browns' regular-season opener on Sept. 10.

The insider says there is a very outside chance that one or both could be on the field for the preseason finale—with McCutcheon being more likely than Tucker—but to not expect it.

The Browns are being particularly cautious with Tucker, whose surgery was performed on the same knee that caused him to miss the last nine games of the 2004 season.


PRESEASON OPENER BROWNIES: Crennel officially announced that rookie D'Qwell Jackson will start in the place of the injured Chaun Thompson at one of the inside linebacker spots….The Browns expect tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. to get a handful of snaps in this week's preseason opener, while wide receiver Braylon Edwards will not play at all…. Andrew Hoffman, moved from the defensive to offensive line earlier this week, will have his playing time determined by the type of defense the Eagles are running. If they are blitzing and doing a lot of stunts, Hoffman's playing time will likely be limited, Crennel said.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We'll find out if we should keep giving him reps or not. See, that's the thing about this game. It's opportunity. Sometimes, guys never get opportunity, so they don't get to show as much. Sometimes they get the opportunity and they can show that they can play and deserve to play. If he can show that he can make plays and use his instincts like he did in college, then it will be a good story."---head coach Romeo Crennel, on rookie D'Qwell Jackson starting in place of the injured Chaun Thompson in Thursday's preseason opener.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, THE SEQUEL: "It all starts with our division. Pittsburgh -- they've been the bullies of our division for a long time. We have to change that where a team looks at you and they count you as a victory. All that has to change."---linebacker Willie McGinest, drawing a cyber standing ovation from every Browns fans reading his words.

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