BEREA — Friday should have been an exciting day for the Browns and coach Pat Shurmur.
He finally had an offseason with players. He got to see and work with his new running back and quarterback. Yet what was the first thing he did? Address the injury suffered by defensive tackle Phil Taylor that in all likelihood will sideline him for the entire 2012 season. Taylor tore his left pectoral muscle lifting weights and will undergo surgery in the middle of next week.
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“You never want a player to get hurt, and I don’t think there’s ever a good time for it,” Shurmur said.
He wasn’t ready to say Taylor would miss all of 2012, but it’s safe to say the Browns are planning to be without their second-year defensive tackle and 2011 first-round draft pick. Shurmur said the surgery will take place the middle of next week. Normal rehab is a minimum of six months.
Taylor was in the building, but he was not available to comment.
He posted on Twitter: “Just a bump in the road. Got (to) work hard and come back #Strong.”
“We’ll just use the practices that we have and the training that we have to get a guy ready to play there,” Shurmur said.
Who that guy will be is up for debate.
Scott Paxson played well in spots last season, and the Browns drafted two defensive tackles — John Hughes of Cincinnati in the third round and Billy Winn of Boise State in the sixth.
Still, the injury stings.
Defensive tackle was one spot the team seemed set. Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin were a good combination in 2011, and the addition of Hughes and Winn was going to provide depth.
Now the depth has to start — which works sometimes but doesn’t work other times.
Taylor had a solid rookie season, with 59 tackles (seventh on the defense) and four sacks. Most importantly, he started 16 games, played a lot and was expected to improve in his second season. The team’s offseason focus was on adding ends (Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker) and depth at tackle.
Hughes, a draft pick widely criticized by fans, is considered more of a run stopper. General manager Tom Heckert said he was a “stack and shed” guy. But Shurmur said the team believes he can also “generate pass rush from (the) inside.”
“It’s my first day of rookie minis,” Hughes said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
Winn said he’s most comfortable in the slot Taylor played, but asking a sixth-round choice to step in right away is asking a lot.
“They’re looking for competitors, trying to find guys to fit schemes,” Winn said. “I may or may not be able to fit that scheme, but I am going to try my hardest to come out and compete every day.”
The Browns have had a very odd string of pectoral muscle injuries. Linebacker Ben Taylor had a torn pec back in the Butch Davis days, and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson missed good portions of two seasons when he tore the muscle on each side of his chest.
Phil Taylor hurt his doing bench-presses during offseason workouts.
And the first question Shurmur took was not about seeing running back Trent Richardson or quarterback Brandon Weeden, but about losing Taylor.
The Browns started the 2011 season losing the opener when the defense did not break the huddle on time. They started the 2012 offseason losing a guy expected to be a key part of the defense while he was lifting weights.
It’s a Cleveland thing. Those who follow understand.