Secondary On the Mend

Mike McLain reports from Berea on the state of the Browns oft-injured secondary, as well as the Browns' backup quarterback. The full injury report, plus lingering amazement at an improbable play from last Sunday.

BEREA - Things are actually looking up for the Browns' injury-riddled secondary.

Cornerback Daylon McCutcheon practiced at full strength Wednesday. McCutcheon, who missed the Houston game with a sprained elbow, played on nickel downs last Sunday.

"Daylon practiced with the anticipation that he'll start, which is definitely a help for our secondary," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "We were fortunate last week that we didn't have any additional injuries from the standpoint that we didn't set anybody back."

Strong safety Robert Griffith was on the practice field but won't play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Griffith is recovering from a broken bone in his right shoulder. Cornerback Corey Fuller, who's nursing a tendon injury near his right knee, will also sit out Sunday's game.

"That's the most-disappointing thing," Davis said. "For the most part everybody else has maintained pretty good health for this time of the season."

Griffith was initially injured Sept. 22 against Tennessee. He tried playing through pain but had to take himself out of a game against Tampa Bay Oct. 13. The injury was supposed to take four to six weeks to heal, which means he'll probably return against Cincinnati after a bye next week.

Quarterback Kelly Holcomb has made a rapid recovery from a hairline bone fracture in his right leg and a sprained right knee ligament suffered Oct. 6 against Baltimore. He wasn't listed on the injury report and will be available as the backup.

SURPRISED: Quarterback Tim Couch still can't believe that he was able to complete a two-point conversion pass to Dennis Northcutt that tied the score, 21-21, last Sunday against the New York Jets. Couch threw the ball while being leveled by Josh Evans. The ball floated into the air, and Northcutt made the catch between two defenders.

"I knew I was getting hit, but I didn't think I was as parallel to the ground as I was," Couch said. "I don't know how I got rid of it."

BACK AT IT: Offensive guard Paul Zukauskas will be back with the second team this week. Zukauskas replaced Shaun O'Hara in the second half last Sunday.

"I think I played all right," said Zukauskas, who started three games this season when O'Hara moved to center to replace the injured Dave Wohlabaugh. "I played well enough for us to win, and that was the key."

INJURY REPORT: The Steelers will be without running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (pectoral). Running back Jerome Bettis is doubtful (sprained knee). Questionable are center Jeff Hartings (knee), and tight ends Jerame Tuman (quad) and John Allred (calf). Probable are defensive end Rodney Bailey (groin), receiver Plaxico Burress (wrist) and cornerback Chidi Iwuoma (knee).

For the Browns, linebacker Ben Taylor (hamstring) is out. Linebacker Brant Boyer (chest) is probable.

FINISHING STRONG: The Browns are second in the NFL with 73 fourth-quarter points and fourth with 122 second-half points. Kansas City leads in fourth-quarter scoring with 109 and second-half scoring with 157.


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