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Browns QB Weeden throws again with future unclear

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BEREA, Ohio (AP)

With his right hand in a protective brace, Brandon Weeden stood on the sideline last weekend in Minnesota and watched backup quarterback Brian Hoyer and Cleveland's offense operate better than it had all season.

Flushed with frustration, Weeden learned a lesson.

''Don't get hurt,'' he said.

Out for the second straight week with a sprained right thumb, Weeden knows it's not a certainty he'll get his starting job back from Hoyer once he's healthy enough to play.

On Friday, Weeden threw a football for the first time since getting hurt in the fourth quarter of Cleveland's Week 2 loss to Baltimore. He's encouraged by his progress and insisted he's focused only on getting healthy.

But if Hoyer plays well on Sunday against Cincinnati, there's a chance Weeden will return in a backup role. For now, Weeden is following doctor's orders and being supportive of Hoyer and coach Rob Chudzinski.

''That's out of my control,'' he said when asked if he expects his job back. ''My focus is making sure this thumb continues to make the steps that allow me to get back and be 100 percent. There's no reason to rush back and get to where I'm not completely healthy, so my main goal is getting healthy. Whenever I am, then I'll sit down with Chud and we'll go from there.

''Injuries happen. Things happen for a reason and we'll see how it plays out.''

Last week, Chudzinksi, who started Hoyer - the team's No. 3 quarterback for all of training camp, the exhibition season and first two games - said there was no guarantee Weeden would return as the No. 1 quarterback. Chudzinski added that they will evaluate the quarterback position on a week-to-week basis, and that Weeden understood the situation.

Weeden said there has been no such discussion.

''We really haven't talked about it,'' the second-year QB said. ''My main focus, our main focus, is me getting healthy and once I get healthy then we can cross that bridge when we get to it.''

Weeden will likely be joined on the sideline this week by starting linebacker Jabaal Sheard, who has a sprained left knee. Sheard didn't practice this week, and the Browns listed him as ''doubtful'' - a 25 percent chance of playing - on the injury report.

If Sheard is out, rookie Barkevious Mingo will get his first NFL start. The first-round pick has two sacks in two games after missing the opener with a bruised lung.

''With whatever I'm called to do, I just prepare for it, and I'll be ready if I'm called to do it,'' Mingo said. ''It's very exciting, with the possibility of getting my first start.''

Weeden said he tossed the ball 40 times on Friday as the Browns (1-2) prepared to face the Bengals (2-1). A former minor league pitcher in the New York Yankees system, he threw a baseball and softball on Thursday before graduating to a football. Weeden said he's recovered more quickly than hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham and Cleveland's medical staff expected.

As Hoyer worked with the first-team offense in practice the past few days, Weeden has been stuck riding a stationary bike on the sideline and stretching under the guidance of a trainer.

That was easy compared to being inactive last week as the Browns got their first win, 31-27 over the Vikings.

''It's terrible,'' said Weeden, who only has to wear the brace when he sleeps. ''I've never done it before. I felt like a duck out of water. In pregame warmup, it was a unique feeling. I've never felt it, honestly, ever in any sport. It's frustrating. As a competitive guy and a guy that wants to be out there, and even though the points and all those things we were getting into a rhythm offensively, it's not how you draw it up just because as a competitor I want to be out there.''

Weeden praised Hoyer's three-touchdown, three-interception performance, which got a boost from wide receiver Josh Gordon's return from a two-game suspension. Gordon caught 10 passes for 146 yards.

Weeden didn't have Gordon as a target during Cleveland's losses to Miami and Baltimore, and can only hope he gets a chance to throw to him.

''We knew he was going to make plays, and maybe that was the spark we needed,'' Weeden said. ''If he can help us continue to win games, shoot, I'll be all for it.''

NOTES: Along with Sheard, DE Billy Winn (quadriceps) will also miss Sunday's game, testing Cleveland's defensive line depth. ... K Billy Cundiff practiced and kicked for the first time this week after being sidelined with a leg injury sustained on a kickoff against the Vikings. Cundiff is questionable but is optimistic he'll play. ... RG Shawn Lauvao is also questionable to make his season debut after missing the first three games following ankle surgery. ... The Bengals' secondary is banged up with CB Leon Hall (hamstring), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (hamstring), S Reggie Nelson (hamstring) all doubtful.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Tagged: Browns, Brandon Weeden, Bengals, Billy Cundiff, Brian Hoyer, Jabaal Sheard, Josh Gordon

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