Browns’ Mack determined to play

Alex Mack earns his living by pushing, shoving and wrestling

angry 300-pound-plus men on Sundays. He’s never missed a play in

his NFL career.

Mack’s toughness is undeniable.

It was tested recently like never before.

In pain and so sick that Cleveland’s Pro Bowl center required

intravenous fluids before the game, Mack never left the field

during the Browns’ Oct. 2 game against Tennessee despite a severe

appendicitis attack that required emergency surgery the following

day. Mack doesn’t regret playing, and would do it again.

”I generally want to play,” Mack said. ”It’s what you’re here

for and I don’t want to let my team down.”

He may not have a choice this week.

Mack is still recovering from the laparoscopic surgery to remove

his appendix and has not yet been cleared to practice. On

Wednesday, he was on the field with his teammates but only as a

spectator as the Browns (2-2) began installing their game plan for

Sunday’s game against Oakland.

Mack said he has improved each day, but that it will likely be a

game-time decision whether he plays.

If it were up to him, would he?

”If it was up to me,” Mack said sarcastically, ”my appendix

would not have gone bad and I’d still be healthy.”

Mack said he felt poorly in the days leading up to the game

against the Titans. He had gotten sick during practice earlier in

the week, but attributed that to ”bad food.” The day before the

game, Mack said his sickness intensified and that Saturday night

”got a little worse.”

”I thought it was a stomach bug,” he said. ”We all thought it

was a stomach bug.”

When he arrived at Browns Stadium on Sunday, Mack said he was

rundown and tired but determined to play. Mack was hooked up to an

IV to get fluids and he was checked by the team’s training staff

before he decided to play in his 36th straight game as a pro.

”It wasn’t like everyone knew it was appendicitis,” he said.

”I guess 15 percent of the population has an appendix that goes

the opposite direction. I’m one of those 15.”

Mack somehow made it through the entire game, a feat that

impressed his teammates.

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy was aware that Mack was ill, but

none of the Browns could have imagined he was sick enough to need

emergency surgery.

”We all just kind of thought he had a bug,” McCoy said. ”But

he’s a tough guy and it takes everything to make him come out of a

game. We had some mistakes during the game, we fumbled a snap and

things were a little off, but Alex is a guy who is going to be a

warrior and fight ’til the end. I know if there is a chance he can

play, he will.”

Mack said he wasn’t pressured by anyone to play while sick.

”It was up to me, as far as I was concerned,” he said. ”I

felt I was able to go and I wanted to play. So there was no reason

we saw to keep me out of the game. And I wanted to play and the

discussion never came up.”

The timing of Mack’s sickness was interesting for the

Browns.

One week earlier, running back Peyton Hillis didn’t play in

Cleveland’s game against Miami with strep throat, a decision that

prompted speculation he sat out to protest not getting a contract

extension from the club. Hillis’ drama dragged on through

Cleveland’s bye week and coach Pat Shurmur was still addressing the

topic earlier this week.

Shurmur was aware Mack was ill before playing the Titans.

”I knew that he came to the stadium and that he saw his

breakfast again,” he said. ”I knew he wasn’t feeling well. Again,

that happens to a lot of guys where they get sick and they play. I

do know he’s a very tough guy, he’s a very fine center and we need

to be strong up the middle here to be good and I’m really glad that

he’s our center.

”I’ve got a strong appreciation for what he is as a

player.”

On the Monday morning after the game, Mack was very sore and

figured something was seriously. Later, he learned it was

appendicitis and surgery was needed.

Mack wasn’t scared, just bothered.

”It was annoying that I knew I was going to have to go to

surgery,” he said. ”I had to call my family and tell them. I had

to go to the ER, which is not what I wanted to do with my bye week

or my Monday.”

He’s tough all right.

Mack knows he was putting himself at some risk by playing with

his appendix on the verge of rupture. To him, it’s not any more

dangerous than banging heads with nose tackles. To him, it was

nothing serious.

He would prefer to practice before playing, and Mack would like

more time for the incisions in his stomach to heal. But there’s a

game to be played and Mack will do all he can to be ready for

it.

It comes down to two factors.

”What’s best for the team,” he said, ”and what’s best for

me.”

Notes: Browns CB Joe Haden did not practice because of a

sprained knee and Shurmur remains hopeful his top defensive back

will be able to play Sunday. Haden was not available for interviews

in the locker room. … Browns DE Marcus Benard remains

hospitalized following his motorcycle crash. The team placed him on

the reserve non-football illness list, ending his season after four

games. The Browns may be able to withhold some of his salary. …

To take Benard’s spot, the Browns signed DL Auston English to the

active roster from the practice squad. The Browns also signed

rookie DL Kiante Tripp to the practice squad. He spent training

camp with Atlanta.