PITTSFORD, N.Y. - The Cleveland Browns were looking forward to seeing first-round pick William Green in action for the first time against an opposing defense in today's scrimmage with the Buffalo Bills at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester.
They may not get that chance.
Green injured his shoulder on a pass play during Friday's afternoon practice with the Bills. X-rays were negative, but the rookie running back is listed as day to day with a sore shoulder may be held out of today's 10 a.m. scrimmage.
How he injured the shoulder was a mystery as of Friday night, but Green was visibly upset when he left the field. Green exchanged a series of verbal jabs with the Bills' linebackers and defensive backs as he was escorted from the field by a trainer.
"I really don't have any idea what happened," said quarterback Tim Couch. "The last thing I remember was throwing a little crossing route over the middle to William. It didn't look like he was hit all that hard."
With Green down, James Jackson and Jamel White split time at running back with the first-team offense.
Browns coach Butch Davis didn't seem terribly concerned by Green's injury. He was too busy looking for progress from his re-vamped offensive line. Whether it's Green, Jackson or White running the ball in 2002, the key to the Browns improving their offensive production will be the play up front.
"I was particularly interested in watching our offensive line," said Davis. "I was watching them in their one-on-one against Buffalo's defensive line," said Davis. I was watching them in the inside-run drill and against the blitz. I was checking our protection. Seeing how Ryan Tucker, our new right tackle, is doing, and Shaun O'Hara, our new left guard, is holding up. That's had the lion's share of my attention.
"I am really pleased ... I have high expectations for these guys, and I think they've done OK."
Friday was an up-and-down day for the Browns' offense as a whole. The morning practice was marred by sloppy patterns and dropped passes by the receiving corps.
"In the morning we weren't sharp at all," said Couch. "We had a little more crisp practice this afternoon ... I think (the receivers) were a little tired this morning. They got rejuvenated by the afternoon and came out and had a good practice."
After an encouraging first week of practice, second-year receiver Quincy Morgan appeared to regress during the morning workout, showing some of the same inconsistencies and lapses in concentration that plagued his rookie season. Morgan dropped several passes and was often chided by offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and receivers coach Terry Robiske for running sloppy routes.
"I made some mistakes," said Morgan. "A couple of the routes that I ran, I didn't come back and I let the defensive back get up on me ... I just had to come back in the afternoon and be more physical."
Morgan was more physical and more effective in the afternoon, catching every ball thrown his way. Even Dennis Northcutt, who was a forgotten man in the receiving corps after a disappointing first two seasons, had a fine afternoon. Northcutt found a seam in the defense during the two-minute drill, splitting the defense for a gain of over 50-yards down before being chased down by cornerback Ahmad Brooks at the Bills' 7-yard line. The play set up a short touchdown pass from Kelly Holcomb to Andre King.
"Northcutt and I have played together for a couple of years now, so it's not like he's a rookie coming in and I haven't thrown many balls to him," said Couch. "He has been having a really great camp. I don't remember him dropping more than one pass the whole camp, and he's made a ton of big plays. He's always great after the catch, so he could be a guy who can be a big playmaker for us in this offense and stretch the field for us."
On the adjacent practice field, the Browns defense frustrated Bills' quarterback Drew Bledsoe as he tried to run the two-minute offense. Browns cornerbacks Corey Fuller and Anthony Henry each intercepted Bledsoe during the drill. Even Bledsoe's backup struggled against the Browns secondary. Alex Van Pelt was intercepted by both Henry and safety Michael Jameson.
LINEBACKERS DINGED ... Rookie linebacker Ben Taylor left early in the afternoon practice after being kicked in the calf. Taylor was on crutches with his leg heavily wrapped as he returned to the Browns' dormitory. He is listed day to day, and will most likely be held out of today's scrimmage. Converted safety Marquis Smith is also listed as day to day after getting his bell rung in a collision with defensive end Kendrick Office on a kickoff return.
BROWNS MAKE IMPRESSION ... After just one day of practice with the Browns, several Bills said they were impressed by the strides the Browns have made since the two teams scrimmaged last year at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania.
"They are a much improved team," said Pro Bowl wide receiver Eric Moulds. "I talked to Corey Fuller and a few of those guys, and they all feel like they are on the verge of doing something special. That's the same thing we feel."
At last year's scrimmage, the Browns arrived in Edinboro with a chip on their shoulder, determined to show that they were not the same team that finished with a 2-14 record.
The Bills, who are eager to improve on last year's 3-13 record, could have the same chip on their shoulder today.
"There are a lot of people who are picking us to do some pretty big things this year," said Couch. "(The Bills) are coming off a down year, and I'm sure they are looking to come out and prove a point that they can play against a team that is supposed to be a playoff contender."