Browns running short-handed at linebacker

BEREA — When Michael Vick looks across the line of scrimmage Sunday, he might need a Browns roster to see who is on the opposite side of the field from him at linebacker.

The Browns have already lost two of their three projected starters for Sunday’s game and the status of a third is unknown. Chris Gocong ruptured his Achilles and is lost for the season. Scott Fujita was suspended for the first three games for his part in the Saints’ Bounty scandal and barring a last-minute injunction from a judge, he will be out.

Kaluka Maiava is at weak side linebacker for Gocong and rookie James-Michael Johnson is slated as the starter in Fujita’s place at strong side.

However, Johnson suffered an injury to his oblique muscle in the final preseason game with the Bears and it is unknown if he will be able to play this week or anytime soon. Johnson was seen on the stationary bike during the time that was open to the media. Rookie Tank Carder is listed as Johnson’s backup, but it is believe either L.J. Fort or Craig Robertson will start if Johnson can’t go.

Shurmur said Johnson was ‘day-to-day’ last Saturday, while GM Tom Heckert said that Johnson will be out ‘for awhile’ the same day. There was at least one report that said Johnson could miss more than two games.

Shurmur offered no new news.

“We’ll see,” he said. “In terms of injuries I’m going to let what we turn into the league stand as my injury statement.”

Carder was just claimed off waivers from the Bills this past week. Fort is an undrafted rookie free agent from Northern Iowa. Robertson played at North Texas and was signed to the Browns’ practice squad for the final two games of the 2011 season.

Neither Johnson, Fort, Carder or Robertson have played in a regular season NFL game, but Shurmur remains undaunted. Maiava started six games in 2011 and had 24 tackles.

“We have lots of linebackers,” Shurmur said. “I am not concerned. The guys we have will do a fine job.”



Shurmur Mum on Haden: Mike Holmgren said on The Fan radio Tuesday that CB Joe Haden
had appealed his suspension, all but verifying that Haden had failed a drug test. However, Shurmur wouldn’t give any new information.

“Let me just make a strong point,” Shurmur said. “This is a league issue and I can’t talk about it.”

A reporter asked a follow up referring to Holmgren’s comments.

“With all due respect, if you have a follow up question, it should be for Mike.”

Haden was practicing Wednesday during the time available to the media.

Captains: Shurmur announced last week that the team voted on the three captains for the season. Joe Thomas is the offensive captain, while linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is the defensive captain. The special team captain is kicker Phil Dawson. The trio picked TE Alex Smith as the fourth captain for the opener.

“I think they chose wisely because you’re looking for guys that are passionate and he’s a tough guy,” Shurmur said. “I’m pleased with their first selection.”


Shurmur Confident with Weeden: Shurmur said he is confident that rookie QB Brandon Weeden will be able to handle playing in the NFL as a rookie.

“I’ve seen him operate on a daily basis,” he said. “When you watch him in practice, he makes mistakes but I haven’t seen a rookie stare.”

Shurmur knows that Weeden will experience growing pains.

“He’s a rookie and sooner or later you’re standing on the field and you have to make a play,” he said. “He’s a rookie and he’s going to make mistakes, but it’s how he responds to it.”

Weeden was 24-of-49 for 297 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked four times, fumbling three times. He had a 59.7 rating.

Injury Update: The official injury report was not released by the Browns, but on the stationary bike were: OL John Greco, OL Oniel Cousins, DL Phil Taylor and LB James-Michael Johnson. DB Dimitri Patterson, DB Eric Hagg, RB Chris Ogbonnaya, RB Trent Richardson and TE Jordan Cameron were all back at practice.

Richardson was taking part in all the drills open to the media and was walking and running without a limp. He did have a black sleeve on his left knee.

“Trent is doing well,” Shurmur said prior to practice Wednesday.

Happy with Ends: Shurmur said he expects the defensive ends to be much improved this season.

The Browns main two unrestricted free agent signings this past offseason were defensive ends Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker.

“I feel good about our defensive end position,” Shurmur said. “Emmanuel Stephens and Jabaal (Sheard) have done a good job and then bringing in Rucker and Parker.

“They have stabilized the position as veterans do,” he said. “You could see any two of the four, depending on down and distance.”