Injured Stars Not Aligning

Teams expect some collateral damage during the preseason, but the Cleveland Browns are getting hit especially hard. Scout.com looks at the impact it's having on the team, and their expectations for a breakout season in 2008.

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Injuries are starting to mount for the Browns, and with the start of the regular season drawing close, there is concern about how many might still be on the sideline when they face the Cowboys in the opener Sept. 7.

Starting quarterback Derek Anderson was forced to sit out the third preseason game, normally the tune-up for the regular season, because of a concussion suffered in the game against the Giants Aug. 18.

Free safety Brodney Pool (concussion), running back Jamal Lewis (hamstring) and linebacker Willie McGinest were held out of the game against the Lions after being hurt in the Meadowlands. Kick returner Josh Cribbs is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. Strong safety Sean Jones is nursing a swollen knee.

Fortunately, the Browns escaped Ford Field in Detroit without any major injuries, but the injury list was long enough already before it got longer in Giants Stadium. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards has been ordered to stay off his feet while he recovers from a lacerated heel. He was hurt Aug. 9 running wind sprints in his socks when Donte Stallworth spiked him.

"Every day I'm getting better," Edwards said on Sirius Radio. "I'm working with the trainers to be the best I can be. When the time is right, we'll be back."

Asked if that means he'll be ready for the Cowboys, Edwards, upbeat despite his situation, answered:

"Hopefully. That is the goal. We got lucky. It was a freakish accident. It could have been worse, but it wasn't."

Edwards caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. The offense is stagnant without him.

Coach Romeo Crennel did not sound like Edwards will be back soon either. Edwards did not play against the Lions and it is unlikely he will play against the Bears in the final preseason game.

"We're trying to keep Braylon off his feet so he doesn't re-open that wound," Crennel said. "The wound is healing, but we're going to be a little cautious because at his position, where he runs and cuts, the thing that we don't want to happen is we don't want him to break it open. He'd have to miss more time if it gets to that point."

Outside linebacker Antwan Peek, rookie linebacker Beau Bell and rookie tight end Martin Rucker are recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. Peek hopes to play against the Cowboys, but the others are not expected back until later in the month.

On top of the bruised bodies, the Browns are also battling some bruised egos after going 0-3 in their first three preseason games. They read and hear about how good they are supposed to be in 2008. They were beaten 24-21 by the Jets in the preseason opener, 37-34 by the Giants and 26-6 by the Lions. At one point, they trailed the Giants 30-3.

"That wasn't Romeo Crennel football," defensive captain Andra Davis said, referring to the Giants game. "We're going to learn from it and grow. It's good that we went through that. It brought us down to earth."

Crennel is concerned, but he is not panicking. He was defensive coordinator on the Patriots team that won the Super Bowl after the 2004 season. Two days after the championship game, he was named Browns head coach. That New England team was 1-3 in the preseason.

"I've been killed before and I've come back before," Crennel said. "We'll come back from this."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Browns traded a conditional seventh-round draft choice to the Dolphins on Aug. 20 for cornerback Travis Daniels. Daniels can also play safety. He started 25 games in three seasons with Miami.

Daniels' best season was his rookie year in 2005. He started 14 of 16 games, made 62 tackles and had one interception. Daniels, 6-1, 195 pounds, was a fourth-round draft choice from LSU.

"We're going to have to see where he's going to fit," Crennel said. "I doubt that he'll be able to just jump right in because the terminology is new. We have to get him acclimated. Once we do that, we'll determine where we're going to place him."

Cornerback Mil'von James was waived to create a roster opening.

--Brady Quinn's first start in the NFL was a forgettable one. He started against the Lions because Derek Anderson is recovering from a concussion suffered Aug. 18. Quinn led the Browns to just two field goals on six possessions.

--Shaun Rogers was held out of the preseason game against the Giants on Aug. 18 but he played against the Lions, his former team. He made five tackles -- three solo and two assists.

--Kevin Kasper missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. He played briefly against the Lions and left with neck and head injuries.

--The Browns are being extra cautious with free safety Brodney Pool. Pool suffered a concussion against the Giants and did not play against the Lions. It was his third concussion in four years.

--It has been a bleak preseason for the Browns so far, but one bright spot has been kicker Phil Dawson. He made a 56-yard field goal against the Giants and a 53-yard field goal against the Lions.

--The Browns are down to their third left outside linebacker. Willie McGinest is out with a groin injury and Antwan Peek is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. Rookie Alex Hall started against Detroit.

--Syndric Steptoe was a long-shot to make the team at the beginning of training camp, but with return specialist Josh Cribbs wearing a walking boot on a sprained left ankle, Steptoe has emerged as the kick and punt returner and a backup wide receiver. He is also the third quarterback until Anderson recovers.

--The Browns have to make a decision quickly on RG Ryan Tucker. Tucker is working hard to recover from a fractured hip in time to face the Cowboys in the opener, but since he is on PUP, the Browns must decide by Saturday whether to activate him or keep him


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