GREEN BAY (AP) — Even without Aaron Rodgers and several other key players, the Green Bay Packers started their delayed preseason schedule with a 17-11 win over the Cleveland Browns on Friday night.
The Packers also played without top receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers as they held off the Browns, who are starting anew with Hue Jackson as coach and Robert Griffin III at quarterback.
Mason Crosby booted a pair of 54-yard field goals, and undrafted rookie Joe Callahan threw a touchdown pass as the fill-in for Rodgers.
Griffin, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner who signed with the Browns after being dumped by the Redskins in March, went 4 of 8 for 67 yards with an interception in a quarter of action.
Jackson made Griffin the team’s starting quarterback on Monday as the Browns look to end a slide of eight straight losing seasons, including a last-place finish in the AFC North the last five years.
Coach Mike McCarthy decided to rest the 32-year-old Rodgers even after the Packers’ matchup with the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame game Sunday was canceled because of poor field conditions.
The Packers also were without Rodgers’ top backup, second-year QB Brett Hundley, who suffered an ankle injury in practice last week.
With so much talk lately about protecting players, The Packers went for a different sort of safety: a pair of 2-pointers. Both came in the second half, on sacks of rookie Cody Kessler in the end zone. He was chased out of the end zone by Reggie Gilbert on the first one, and was sacked by Christian Ringo on the second.
Not to be outdone too badly, the Browns also got a safety for the game’s first points. John Starks was tackled in the end zone by Tank Carder and Jamie Meder.
Callahan, last year’s top college player in Division III, was denied an opportunity to start opposite the Colts’ Andrew Luck last week. On Friday, Callahan ran Green Bay’s offense the entire first half. He went 16 of 23 for 124 yards, throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to running back John Crockett with 7 seconds left in the half to put the Packers ahead 10-5.
Griffin started his brief night of work with a 49-yard deep ball to former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the Browns’ go-to receiver with the injured trio of Josh Gordon, Andrew Hawkins and first-round rookie Corey Coleman out. But a promising first drive into the red zone fizzled as defensive back Micah Hyde made a lunging interception of a Griffin pass down near the goal line.
The Browns played without two veteran starters on defense: cornerback Joe Haden and lineman John Hughes III.
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