Browns-Panthers: Focus on Sunday

The Cleveland Browns look to put together a winning streak while standout linebacker Dan Morgan contemplates his future... Here are dozens of player updates on both sides as Scout.com joins the teams in gearing up for a big game for both teams this Sunday.

Middle linebacker Dan Morgan has informed coach John Fox he plans to continue playing in the NFL despite a fourth concussion.

"He wants to play again," Fox said. "He's not talking about walking away from it, no. That's his feelings... My understanding is his intentions are to play again."

At this point, Morgan has not been cleared to return to action and Fox had no update on his condition.

Chris Draft has been filling in for Morgan.

Morgan, a sixth-year linebacker out of Miami, suffered his fourth known concussion in Carolina's season opening loss to the Atlanta Falcons and has not played since.

It's not unusual for a player who has suffered multiple concussions to be held out of action for extended weeks. Medical studies show that a player with a history of concussions is at least three times more susceptible to suffer another concussion as opposed to a player who has never had a concussion.

However, if history is any indication, Morgan could be back on the practice field pretty soon, possibly as soon as this week.

In 2004, after suffering his second concussion in three weeks, Morgan was held out of three games before returning to play the final four games. Morgan has now missed three full games.

The players were off Tuesday, but return to the practice field Wednesday.

"I'll meet with the medical people and I will give you an injury report on Wednesday," Fox said.

Fox said he's not sat down and spoken to Morgan in depth about his future plans, but he said Morgan gave him absolutely no indication he has any plans to retire at age 31.

"Some players have maybe walked away from the game and I don't know enough about that as far as the numbers and where you draw the line (on how many concussions) and all that stuff," Fox said. "I just wait for the doctors to say they're OK to play and we play them.

"It's a healing process just like any other part of the body."

Morgan has declined all interview requests since suffering the concussion on Sept. 10.

The Panthers had big plans for Morgan this year.

With defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Kris Jenkins occupying the middle, the plan was to let Morgan run free and make plays, similar to how the Baltimore Ravens use Ray Lewis.

In some sense, Kemoeatu was brought in to protect Morgan from taking on as many blockers and taking as much punishment in the past, but that plan obviously hasn't worked out very well so far for the Panthers.

PLAYER NOTES

  • QB Jake Delhomme played his best game of the year against New Orleans in coach John Fox's judgment. The numbers support that theory as Delhomme finished with a quarterback rating of 104.
  • RB DeShaun Foster ran for 70 of his 105 yards against the Saints in the fourth quarter. He helped put the game away with a 43-yard touchdown run. Foster has a decent chance at his second straight 100-yard game this Sunday when the Panthers host the Cleveland Browns.
  • RB DeAngelo Williams had a solid game for the Panthers on Sunday with eight carries for 62 yards. Although he remains DeShaun Foster's backup, he should see plenty of action against the Browns as the Panthers will look to build on the success they had on the ground in Week 4.
  • RB Nick Goings, playing for the first time in three weeks, recovered an on-sides kick for Carolina in the waning seconds to seal the Panthers victory.
  • TE Mike Seidman did not play Sunday because of a knee injury. His status for this week remains uncertain, which could mean more time for rookie Jeff King.
  • TE Kris Mangum was the target of two unsuccessful Jake Delhomme passes this past Sunday.
  • TE Michael Gaines dropped two passes in Carolina's win over New Orleans.
  • TE Jeff King saw his first action on Sunday against New Orleans playing in place of the injured Mike Seidman.
  • WR Steve Smith is slowly rounding into shape. Although he was again limited in running deep routes, Smith made the most of some short slants and smoke routes, catching 10 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
  • WR Keyshawn Johnson continues to catch anything thrown his way this season. Johnson has shown an incredible ability to make some tough catches in traffic and finished Sunday's game against the Saints with six grabs for 63 yards.
  • WR Drew Carter caught only one pass for the Panthers on Sunday but it was good for a touchdown.
  • WR Keary Colbert has been fazed out of Carolina's offense as the No. 4 receiver. Not that he could get open anyway. The Panthers could cut this former second round draft pick and nobody in the Carolinas would even know he's gone.
  • K John Kasay is a perfect 8-for-8 on field-goal attempts this season after going 10-for-10 in the preseason. He didn't have a field-goal attempt on Sunday but made all three extra points.
  • PR/CB Chris Gamble continues to look timid returning punts.
  • LT Jordan Gross played much better last week in Carolina's win over New Orleans.
  • RT Jeremy Bridges was much better on Sunday against New Orleans and led the way on a 43-yard touchdown run by DeShaun Foster on a sweep to the right.
  • LG Mike Wahle could only play one quarter Sunday before becoming too ill to continue. Trainers believe Wahle might have had food poisoning or a flu bug because he became sick to his stomach, dizzy and disoriented on the field. Coach John Fox said Wahle should be back on the practice field Wednesday.
  • LG Will Montgomery did a decent job filling in for Mike Wahle after Wahle left the game Sunday at the end of the first quarter. He made some rookie mistakes, but on the whole he did well for being thrust into a tough situation.
  • DE Mike Rucker is still without a sack four games into the season. The Panthers rushed mostly three players against the Saints on Sunday in passing downs.
  • C Justin Hartwig has now missed three consecutive games with a groin injury and there's no clear timetable on when he'll return.
  • MLB Chris Draft has done a solid job filling in for Dan Morgan in the middle of the field.
  • DE Julius Peppers recorded his fifth sack on Sunday against the Saints and is now on pace for 20 for the season.
  • DT Ma'ake Kemoeatu did a much better job plugging the gaps on defense and taking up room as the Panthers limited the Saints to just 63 yards on 22 carries Sunday.
  • SS Shaun Williams did not play Sunday because of a foot injury.
  • SS Colin Branch filled in for Shaun Williams on Sunday and botched a late 86-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston that could have been disastrous. Luckily, Nick Goings bailed him out and recovered the on-sides kick and the Panthers escaped with a three-point win.
  • LB Thomas Davis struggled on Sunday giving up a 32-yard pass to Reggie Bush while also being called for pass interference on a fourth down play that led to the Saints go-ahead touchdown.
  • CB Richard Marshall "did good" filling in for Ken Lucas, according to John Fox, even though the Panthers allowed Drew Brees to throw for 349 yards.

The Browns will try to do something this weekend that they have not done since 2003: Win consecutive games.

The last time the Browns won two in a row was back in the Tim Couch days when they beat Pittsburgh and Oakland in October of 2003. That they haven't won back-to-back games since is testament to the team's struggles.

The 2004 season featured ineffective quarterback play from Jeff Garcia, and 2005 was a washout as Romeo Crennel had inferior talent to work with.

The Browns showed some heart in coming back from an 18-point deficit to beat the Raiders in Oakland. Now they will have to show guts and beat Carolina on the road -- if they want to end that embarrassing string.

Crennel, though, is not focusing on two wins. He's thinking about Carolina.

"Even if we get two straight wins," he said, "I'm not going to declare anything other than the fact that we need to win another game. That's the way we do it in the NFL. You go week-to-week, because anything can happen in this business."

PLAYER NOTES

  • QB Charlie Frye faces a dangerous game Sunday in Carolina. The Panthers pass rush is one of the league's better ones, and Frye has shown a tendency to hold the ball too long at times. He'll need good protection and he'll need to make quick decisions if he wants to survive.
  • RB Reuben Droughns fought through a sore shoulder to post his first 100-yard game of the season. Droughns showed again that he is a tough, hard-nosed back who will get what he can from each play. The more he runs, the better the team.
  • WR Braylon Edwards has backed up his claim to concentrate on catching the ball better. After dropping several passes his first two games, Edwards has gone two games without a drop.
  • WR Joe Jurevicius showed his value to the offense in Oakland when he converted two first downs and caught a touchdown pass from Charlie Frye. Jurevicius' sure hands and dependable route-running demand he be used in the starting lineup ahead of Dennis Northcutt.
  • TE Kellen Winslow continues to impress. Winslow was quiet in the first half as the Browns tried to run the ball, but when called upon in the second half he came through with several big catches - including a touchdown. Winslow is living up to his hype.
  • CB Leigh Bodden probably will be sidelined in Carolina due to a sprained ankle. With Gary Baxter already out, the Browns could have a tough time with Panthers receivers Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson.
  • CB Gary Baxter probably will not play until after the Browns bye week Oct. 15. Baxter has struggled with a pectoral muscle injury, and with Leigh Bodden very doubtful with a sprained ankle and Daylon McCutcheon out for the year, the Browns will be using their fourth and fifth cornerbacks in Carolina.
  • S Sean Jones has made some plays, but also can over-pursue. That kind of overeager play led to the Raiders breaking a big run. Jones is a big hitter, but he has to be aware of his overall responsibilities.
  • WR Dennis Northcutt broke a 58-yard punt return. That, combined with Joshua Cribbs' two big kickoff returns, gave the Browns excellent special teams play against the Raiders. Both of those returners could break a big run on any play.
  • TE Darnell Dinkins caught a touchdown pass in Oakland, but probably won't catch many more. With Kellen Winslow and Steve Heiden ahead of him, the catches are not going to go Dinkins' way often.


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