I believe John Wayne said it best when he was quoted as saying "this is getting to be re-goddamn-diculous". While The Duke wasn't speaking specifically to the current state of the Browns' center position, it is more than fitting.
With Bob Hallen inexplicably and unexpectedly leaving camp yesterday, the Browns have now lost two starting centers over the course of the fourteen-day-old training camp. And that has the club in crisis mode.
"Everything (about Hallen leaving camp) surprises me," Crennel told reporters. "You're talking about a starting center in the NFL one day and the next day you've got two issues you're dealing with."
"He has some things he's dealing with on two fronts, which means I have to deal with them. They're both pretty serious. Backs are always serious and personal issues are serious. The medical issue might have something to do with the personal issue."
Hallen suffered back spasms during Monday's morning practice and, after getting medical attention from the Browns' team doctors, suddenly went AWOL. He reportedly flew back to San Diego to be checked out by the same doctors who treated his back problems while Hallen was with the Chargers.
Two messages left by The OBR for Hallen's agent, Cliff Brady, have yet to be returned.
So, where do the Browns go from here?
For the short-term, they stick with Alonzo Ephraim,
who has started five games—all at guard—during his three
years in the NFL and has been a Cleveland Brown for a
mere 11 days. Additionally, Ross Tucker,
Much like Ephraim, Tucker has primarily played guard throughout his four-year career, although the Princeton product did start at center for four games with the Bills in 2004.
Now, as for the long-term? Another trade—this time involving a higher-round pick than was used to obtain Tucker and/or a player—is most definitely on the table and in the offing. General manager Phil Savage hinted as much, telling the Medina County Gazette's and The OBR's Scott Petrak that "there are always players on other teams (we can get)."
Savage also discounted picking up yet another teamless free agent, saying "there's not much on the street. We exhausted that possibility."
With the Browns likely looking to deal for a starting-caliber center, they may have some competition for whoever may be available via the trade route. And that competition may come from within their own division.
The Steelers have likely lost backup Chukky Okobi for the remainder of the season due to a herniated disc in his deck that could be career-threatening. With rookie sixth-round draft pick Marvin Phillips as the lone backup to starter Jeff Hartings, the club could be in the market for a more experienced backup.
For Ken Dorsey, tomorrow could be make or break time for his tenure in Cleveland. Make no mistake about it. The backup QB, with a less-than-lackluster training camp under his belt thus far, is walking on razor-thin ice right now.
He knows it. And, more importantly, coach Crennel knows and hints at it as well.
"(The preseason games are) tremendously important, and we've said that all along, particularly as far as Ken Dorsey is concerned," Crennel said.
"We want to get him in the games to see how he performs before we make a major consideration. … For Anderson, for Dorsey, it's going to be important how they play and how they handle the pressure of the game."
That "major consideration" Crennel speaks of is, of course, bringing in another veteran QB whose name rhymes with "Testaverde".
While cornerback Gary Baxter will likely not play in tomorrow's preseason opener against the Eagles, there is some good news on his injury front.
The OBR has been told that, if this were a regular season game, Baxter would be on the field and in the starting lineup. As stands now, though, the CB will more than likely be held out as a precaution to prevent further damage to his knee.
The veteran defensive back, who missed most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, tweaked the knee earlier this week and has not practiced since.
Much like Baxter, linebacker Chaun Thompson will likely not be on the field tomorrow night. Unlike Baxter, however, the missed playing time will be critical for the four-year veteran.
Thompson is involved in a heated battle with rookie D'Qwell Jackson for the starting inside LB position next to Andra Davis, with all signs pointing toward Jackson having an edge even before the injury.
Quarterback Charlie Frye finally admitted to banging the thumb on his throwing hand on a helmet last Wednesday, but declared the injured digit "good to go" and that he feels "100%" healthy.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"I'd play, but I have an arthritic
coach Romeo Crennel, keeping his sense of humor in the face of losing yet another starting center.