WR Greg Little's drops posing a problem for Browns
BEREA, Ohio (AP)
Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said Monday that he's considering changes to the lineup for his winless team and made it clear that if Little, whose on-field antics have angered some fans, doesn't do a better job of holding onto quarterback Brandon Weeden's passes then he'll lose his starting job.
''We can't play a guy that's going to drop footballs,'' Shurmur said.
Little's drops - STATS LLC said his 12 last season were second-most in the league - are again an issue for the Browns (0-3), who were beaten 24-14 Sunday by the Buffalo Bills to extend their losing streak since last season to nine and who have just a few days to prepare for Thursday night's game in Baltimore.
Little certainly isn't the only problem for the Browns, but the second-year wideout is emblematic of Cleveland's team: young, mistake-prone and inconsistent.
With the Browns trailing 14-7 in the final minute of the first half on Sunday, Little dropped a third-down pass that had the potential to be a huge gain and may have set up a field-goal try. As the ball hit the ground, Shurmur reacted angrily on the sideline, as did wide receivers coach Mike Wilson, who jumped in frustration.
Shurmur said Little's catching issues - he had a potential TD pass in the opener against Philadelphia slip through his hands - have been a constant point of emphasis.
''We've been working with him consistently through last year when we got him to the offseason through the preseason and of course each week,'' Shurmur said. ''When he goes out in the game he has to catch the football. We have all the drills. We have a long list of things we practice and we need to get better results. That's the reality of it.''
But beyond Little's case of the dropsies, the Browns have also been counseling him on posing like Olympic track superstar Usain Bolt after making a catch. On both his receptions against the Bills, Little struck Bolt's signature ''lightning'' pose, drawing back his arms like an archer and pointing skyward.
A week ago, Little celebrated a touchdown catch against the Bengals with a prolonged end zone dance that didn't sit well with some Cleveland fans because the Browns were trailing at the time. Little then drew more criticism for posting a photograph of his celebration on Twitter, and then writing that he didn't care what the fans thought.
Shurmur was asked if Little's posturing bothers him.
''I can't speak for everyone else, but I've had my conversations with him about that,'' he said. ''That can be said. Now whether people see me ranting and raving on the sideline at a player - trust me, I've had my conversations with him.''
Some of them seem to be sinking in.
Little stayed on the field longer than any of his teammates Monday and worked on catching passes in front of a JUGS machine. And after entering the locker room, Little promised to stop posing like Bolt.
''If we were 3-0, I think everybody would be doing the pose,'' he said. ''But we're 0-3 so everybody does not want to see that. I'll change it and just give the normal point with one finger, I guess. Like everybody else does.''
Shurmur was asked what he might do next if Little doesn't respond.
''We'll see,'' he said. ''I think the false interpretation of all this is that he's not being worked with, right? Trust me, he's being worked with.''
Little seemed surprised when he was told that Shurmur hinted at sitting him against the Ravens. But the second-year wide receiver, who was suspended for his senior season at North Carolina, feels he's coachable and can handle any criticism.
''I think Coach likes to coach me hard because he knows I'll respond well to it,'' he said. ''Throughout my career as an athlete, that's always been the case starting with my dad. Anytime that your dad is the coach, he's going to coach you the hardest out of anybody that's on the team and I think that's the way I kind of respond better to things.''
Shurmur believes Little's work ethic and determination are fine. It's his hands that need the most attention.
''Greg is working extremely hard. Greg is extremely tough,'' Shurmur said. ''Greg has got to be more consistent catching the football. That's it.''
Little said he understands the frustration Cleveland fans are feeling, and that some could be venting at him - especially when he's not performing.
''They just want us to win more than anything,'' he said. ''I think once we win, all the games will stop.''
Little needs to play better this week because the Browns have limited options at wide receiver. Mohamed Massaquoi injured his left hamstring in the second half Sunday and will likely be sidelined this week. If Massaquoi can't play, Jordan Norwood may be activated for the first time this season.
Josh Cribbs, who had one reception for 24 yards Sunday, could see more time on offense but Shurmur doesn't want to cut into his duties as a return specialist.
''He's had a role each week and he's been very productive with his returns,'' Shurmur said. ''I think of those as offensive plays as well.''
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL