BEREA, Ohio –– All along, the schedule said Nick McDonald might practice with the Cleveland Browns this week.
The injury to Alex Mack means McDonald isn’t just going through the motions. He could be playing — and soon.
Claimed via waivers by the Browns in June, McDonald was placed on the non-football injury list due to a broken right wrist. Now that Mack is out with a broken fibula, the Browns have a center issue for the first time since 2009 and McDondald was at practice Wednesday, the first day he’s eligible.
A veteran of 16 NFL games, including three starts, McDonald was out of football last season and signed a futures contract with the Chargers last January. The Chargers waived him in July, just before the start of camp, after McDonald broke the wrist in what he called "a wreck."
Now, the Browns could be rewarded for waiting it out.
"I’ve been preparing every single week," McDonald said. "(The wrist) feels great. We’ll take it day to day but I think it’s good."
The Browns moved John Greco from right guard to center following Mack’s injury and inserted veteran utility man Paul McQuistan at guard. Greco had never played center in a real game before.
The Browns listed Greco at center on the new depth chart, but both Greco and Browns coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday that nothing is certain going forwad.
"We’re still not sure exactly how it will all play out," Pettine said, adding that the Browns will go through the practice week before making any decisions.
Mack’s surgery is set for Thursday. The Browns won’t make a roster decision on Mack until after the surgery because Pettine said if doctors discover a clean break, there’s a possibility Mack could return in December.
Per NFI-list rules, McDonald now gets a 21-day practice day window before the Browns have to activate him or keep him on the NFI list. It’s possible the situation could force the decision, and McDonald said he’s been working to get himself in game shape. He’s also played guard, and before Mack’s injury the Browns were only carrying seven offensive linemen on their roster.
McDonald knows good timing. He got a Super Bowl ring with the Packers in 2010 though he never played in a game, and he made his first start, at center, on short notice the next season for a Patriots team that got to the Super Bowl.
Maybe he’s found another good spot with the Browns.
"I’ll play anything," McDonald said. "Anything the coaches expect, anything they ask. Whatever role they want.
"I don’t think you really see that every single day, guys getting claimed (when they’re injured). I was definitely surprised but I’m very happy to be here and excited to help this team win in any way possible."