Berea Report: Defense Infuses Youth

Fred reports from Browns practice, where the Browns are moving forward after Robaire Smith went to the IR, and where additional players are nursing injuries...

Berea—As the Browns made plans for the 2008 season, a big part were the additions of Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams. The pair, coupled with Robaire and Shaun Smith would give the team a solid four man rotation in the 3-4 front.

That was the plan.

That has all changed as Robaire Smith is lost to the season with an Achilles tendon tear.

Shaun Smith will move to right end and Louis Leonard becomes the fourth player in the rotation. Leonard has played in both games this year and has one tackle. He played in four games last year and made four tackles. He was making good progress in training camp, but was hobbled by a foot injury.

Leonard, (6-4, 325), played collegiately at Fresno State and was originally signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He was on the Chargers' practice squad before being signed to the Rams' active roster. After he was waived by the Rams, the Browns signed him two days later.

Leonard says he's up for the challenge.

"I'm sorry for Ro (Robaire Smith)," Leonard said. "But, that's what I'm here for. I feel I'm up for the task."

The Ravens are expected to get a boost in their running game as Willis McGahee returns from injury and Ray Rice was productive against the Bengals.

"We have to stop the run," Shaun Smith said. "They have McGahee back. We expect them to run as much as they can."

Leonard says he'll be ready.

"We have to be ready,"Leonard said. "The other three guys (behind the starters) will be ready for stopping the run. I know I will."

Leonard said he can play all three positions, but he's primarily worked at left end and nose tackle.

Behind the starters, the Browns have no one who has started an NFL game. Rookie Ahtyba Rubin (6-2, 330) was the team's sixth-round draft choice this year from Iowa State. He has been inactive for the first two games.

"We have a couple of guys (hurt), so we're probably going to have to incorporate a couple more," Crennel said. "Rubin and Leonard might come in."

Crennel likes to rotate the defensive linemen to keep them as fresh as possible.

"If we can keep our guys fresh, that will help them," he said.

Crennel said he would prefer to keep Rogers at nose tackle, rather than use him at end.

"I prefer him to stay at nose because he's doing a pretty good job," he said. "You know the saying, ‘If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"

When Robaire Smith was placed on injured reserve, they signed Santonio Thomas, who was cut by the Patriots on Aug. 30. Thomas was active for four games in 2007 with the Patriots and registered five tackles, three against the Jets in his first game. He was inactive for the Super Bowl loss against the Giants.

"We added Santonio Thomas, defensive linemen who was with the Patriots' practice squad the past two years," Crennel said. "We needed to bring someone in to help us out.

Thomas (6-4, 305) played at Miami (Fla.) and was signed by the Patriots in 2005 as an undrafted rookie free agent. He spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons on the Patriots' practice squad and the 2007 season split between the practice squad and the active roster.

Besides, Leonard, Thomas and Rubin, the Browns have last year's sixth-round draft choice, Melila Purcell on the practice squad.

The Browns know that once again, they need to win against the Ravens.

"We don't want to go 0-3," Hank Fraley said. "It's a big game even if it's early in the season."

Shaun Smith agreed.

"Every game is a must win," he said. "It's a division game and if we win, we're 1-1."


Stallworth Speaks: WR Donte Stallworth has been unavailable to speak since straining his quad muscle prior to the season opener against the Cowboys. He was briefly in the locker room Wednesday while the players were available to the media.

"I was just warming up," he said about the injury. "I'm just trying to get back as soon as I can, but I don't want to let my pride get in the way and hurt the team by coming back too soon."

Stallworth did not practice Wednesday and it's unclear if he will be able to play against Baltimore.

"Hopefully, I will be better this week."

Davis LB Time Less: LB Andra Davis is splitting time with Leon Williams, even though Davis is still listed as the starter.

"We rotated (Davis) because he's playing more on special teams more," Crennel said. "We rotated Leon Williams in there more."

Injury Update: Crennel said that five players will not practice on Wednesday due to injury and another will miss due to personal issues: Stallworth (quad), WR Joshua Cribbs (shoulder, hamstring), LB Willie McGinest (hamstring), OL Eric Steinbach (shoulder strain) and LB Kris Griffin (hamstring) were going to be held out of practice Wednesday. DB Mike Adams missed due to a personal matter and Crennel expects him to be back on Thursday.

DL Shaun Smith had a cast on his left wrist and said he injured it against the Steelers. He said he had a fracture, but failed to identify which bone. He said he played the whole game with the injury and it shouldn't stop him this week.

"Nothing's wrong with it," he said. "I'm not a receiver. I don't have to catch the ball. I played the whole game with a soft cast."

Tucker Getting Close: With OL Eric Steinbach being dinged, it is more imperative that OL Ryan Tucker is able to get back in the lineup. OL Scott Young is listed as Steinbach's backup, while Tucker is listed as Rex Hadnot's backup. OL Seth McKinney is listed as the backup to OL Hank Fraley at center.

Crennel said Tucker is getting more comfortable in his recovery from the hip injury, but came short of saying he's ready to play against the Ravens.

"He's getting better and he's getting more practice time," Crennel said. "I think he's at the time to start taking more reps in practice."

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