Multiple Cleveland Browns have denied a report that there’s dissension in the locker room over whether Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown should be the starting quarterback.
Coach Mike Pettine knows where the fans’ allegiance lies after hearing chants for Manziel last week, but he wouldn’t be surprised if his players had differing opinions on the topic.
Despite Manziel having led the Browns to their only victory and McCown being banged up, Pettine remains committed to starting McCown in Sunday’s road matchup with the San Diego Chargers.
"Are we going to have one thousand-percent agreement on how we’re using players? No," Pettine said. "It falls into coaches coach and players have their jobs to do. And are they going to have their opinions? Certainly. I’m confident there is no rift in the locker room. We’re confident in our plan and we’ll move ahead forward with it."
McCown suffered a concussion attempting to dive into the end zone on Cleveland’s first drive of the season in a loss to the New York Jets. Manziel came on and connected with Travis Benjamin on a 54-yard touchdown pass, and the pair hooked up on a 60-yard TD the following week in a 28-14 victory over Tennessee.
Despite Manziel’s success, Pettine decided to go back to McCown last week. He went 28 of 49 for 341 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted in the final minute and the Browns (1-2) fell 27-20 to Oakland.
McCown also suffered a hand injury in that contest, though he doesn’t expect it to be a problem against the Chargers (1-2). He’s also dealing with a TMZ report that claimed three unnamed Browns starters would rather have Manziel starting under center, and he certainly heard the fans calling for the Heisman Trophy winner.
Linemen Joe Thomas, John Greco, Mitchell Schwartz questioned the report’s authenticity, and Alex Mack and Joel Bitonio said they didn’t contribute to anything that was written if it indeed was true.
"Control the controllables," Pettine said. "The only thing we know how to do is not get caught up in that. That stuff can drag you down emotionally. If you start to let the past sit on your shoulders – I won’t allow it to happen to myself. I won’t allow it to happen to this team."
San Diego’s quarterback situation is completely clear, but protecting Philip Rivers has been an issue. He’s been sacked four times in each of the last two weeks and had the wind knocked out of him in the third quarter of Sunday’s 31-14 loss at Minnesota.
Rivers committed two turnovers and left the game in the fourth. He’s been playing behind a damaged offensive line as D.J. Fluker has been dealing with a badly sprained left ankle and Chris Hairston has dealt with an ankle injury of his own.
Chris Watt suffered a groin injury against the Vikings, Orlando Franklin hurt his right ankle and King Dunlap suffered a concussion. San Diego signed J.D. Walton, who started every game at center for the New York Giants last year, and promoted Tyreek Burwell from the practice squad.
It’s uncertain who will be healthy enough to play Sunday.
"The nature of this business is that when you’re called upon to do your job, it doesn’t matter if you started the game or not," said Trevor Robinson, who replaced Watt against the Vikings. "I think I’m confident in myself and confident in everybody. Whoever those five are, I’m confident we can give ourselves a chance to win."
The Chargers are fourth in total offense at 402.0 yards per game, but their eight turnovers are tied for second-most in the league. Their one sack is tied for the fewest.
"We’ll do whatever it takes to fix this," McCoy said. "You’ve got to have thick skin in this business. We need to be more consistent in all three phases."
The Browns allowed 314 passing yards last week after giving up at least that many once last season. However, All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden played through a rib injury suffered on the game’s first play.
Haden and safety Tashaun Gipson (groin) are considered day to day but should play Sunday.