BEREA — The challenge for Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur this week: Getting a team to gel when much of it is missing.
Monday, several starters were missing on both sides of the ball — with two other significant contributors also MIA.
The offensive absent were running back Trent Richardson (knee), wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (concussion) and tight ends Ben Watson (unspecified) and Jordan Cameron (back). Defensive missing included tackle Phil Taylor (pectoral tear), end Frostee Rucker (knee, evidently), tackle Scott Paxson (knee) and linebackers Scott Fujita (unspecified), D’Qwell Jackson (shoulder) and Chris Gocong (Achilles’ tendon). Significant contributors who were out were wide receiver Travis Benjamin (unspecified) and cornerback Dmitri Patterson (ankle).
That’s a hefty list — thought it’s not atypical of training camp and preseason, when teams will treat the veteran guys different than they would during the season.
But it does not make it simple for a coach who has a game in two days, a coach trying to prepare and understand his team.
“Some of the guys that are not out here are guys that have played in the league a long time,” Shurmur said. “They’ve been through these little gaps where they’ve had injuries. … The ones I’m most concerned about are the young ones, the guys that need to develop. If there’s a level of concern, that’s where it goes to.”
A few of the injuries are unspecified because Shurmur has adopted the policy of not talking about injuries except after games.
Shurmur stated his policy on July 27, the third day of camp: “I am not going to talk about injuries and who wasn’t out there. You guys (are) available to see it.”
So while it can be reported if a player practiced or did not, it can’t always be reported why — unless the player or someone around him chooses to reveal the reason. But if a coach has instructed a player not to talk about injuries, he won’t. And the team has let some agents know it does not appreciate them giving out information about their client’s injuries.
If a guy shows up the day after a game with a problem, a la Benjamin or Fujita, Shurmur hasn’t been discussing the specifics.
League rules state that a team is not required to release information about an injury until the week before the regular season, when an injury report must be filed.
Shurmur said that he doesn’t want to talk about guys not practicing when he knows they will return. He will say if a guy is done for the season, though, which was the case with Gocong and his Achilles’ tendon tear. In the offseason, he was very up front about Taylor’s torn pectoral muscle.
But the Browns are like many teams in not providing details before the season starts.The Ravens are not revealing details on every injury, nor do the Bengals or Steelers.
Shurmur hasn’t said why he adopted this policy, but it could be a fallout of the Colt McCoy concussion situation in Pittsburgh last season. Then, Shurmur said what he knew after the game when he said McCoy had hurt his hand. It turned out McCoy had a concussion, and the Browns were roundly criticized for how they handled things.
Saying less avoids problems, though not entirely.
Friday after the win over Detroit, Shurmur said Massaquoi had a concussion, but seemed less than pleased when Massaquoi posted on Twitter that he did not have a concussion. In some ways, it seemed like a classic case of a player downplaying his injury.
“I told you what happened and that’s what happened,” Shurmur said. “If you ask me a question about what happened in the game and I tell you the process, then that’s how it happened.”
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis banned his team from Twitter during training camp after rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick posted information about an injury prior to camp.
Injuries are the bane of every head coach. They don’t want them and hate being asked about them. Many camp injuries are just that, injuries that happen in camp and once the season starts guys play.
So when asked about Benjamin, Shurmur said: “As soon as he’s ready to play he’ll be out.”
He added the rookie wideout is “sore from the game.”