BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – The Browns placed left guard Joel Bitonio on injured reserve and his season is likely over.
The earliest Bitonio could return is Dec. 18 at Buffalo under the new injured reserve rules that allow teams to select 1 player on IR to return but they must miss a minimum of 8 games and can’t return to practice for 6 weeks.
“It is crappy news, but it is part of the game,” Bitonio said. “You get banged up out there. Hopefully, it is things you can play through most of the time, but this one is a little more serious than that so they put me on IR today. I’m looking forward to cheering my team on and helping these guys get in there and helping Cam [Erving] and helping some of the young guys coming along as best as I can.”
Bitonio sustained the injury to his right foot, which is currently in a walking boot, on the final play of the first half and he hung in there and played the entire second half of the 33-13 loss to the Patriots injured.
Whether or not Bitonio will need surgery has yet to be determined but Jackson is already planning to finish the season without him. Bitonio will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina next week and meet with Dr. Robert Anderson to determine how severe the injury is and what the plan will be moving forward.
This marks the second straight season that Bitonio, who didn’t miss a snap as a rookie in 2014 after being selected in the second round, ended up on IR. Bitonio missed the final 6 games due to a left ankle injury.
“You never want to end the season hurt, and that is two years in a row for me now and that is just not something that I’m used to,” Bitonio said. “I’ve never been hurt in my life until the last two years. It was just a couple freak accidents, but I’m going to come back and I’m going to work my tail off and do everything in my power to come back better next season than I did this year.”
The Browns now have 12 players on injured reserve or reserve injured-non football injury including defensive end Desmond Bryant, quarterback Robert Griffin III, kicker Patrick Murray and linebacker Nate Orchard.
“I know it does not look like it when you are 0-5, but I know we are moving in the right direction and I want to be a part of that, and I want to really help this organization and get some wins for these guys,” Bitonio said.
Taking Bitonio’s roster spot is fullback Dan Vitale, who was signed off of Tampa Bay’s practice squad.
Haden Questionable – Cornerback Joe Haden did not participate in the team’s Friday walk through after sustaining a groin injury during Thursday’s practice.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton hopes the 2-time Pro Bowl corner will be able to play against Tennessee.
“I know that he will do everything he can to get out there,” Horton said. “Joe is a very competitive guy so whatever he will do to help the team, I know he will do to help the team.”
Haden was inactive for the Browns’ 30-24 overtime loss at Miami due to a groin injury but the team says that the injuries are not related. Haden is tied for sixth in the league with 2 interceptions and he has totaled 19 tackles and 5 passes defensed in 4 games.
“It was just running. Sometimes those things happen,” Jackson said. “Nobody hit him or anything like that. It is just again he just tweaked another groin. We will see where he is.”
McCown Still Down – No one could predict that the Browns would be entering Week 6 having gone through 4 quarterbacks and only having a pair of rookies available against the Titans.
Cody Kessler, 1 of 3 third round picks, will start and undrafted free agent Kevin Hogan will back him up because veteran Josh McCown has been ruled out for a fourth straight game due to a broken collarbone. McCown practiced this week in the hopes that he could be made available but Jackson and the Browns aren’t taking any chances.
“I think he’s getting there,” Jackson said of McCown. “As you guys know, we’re going to err on the side of caution with our guys before we stick them out there. We want to make sure that they are really healed up and ready to go and I think he’s close. I think he’s really close [but] just talking to our medical staff it’s the best thing to do for another week and let’s see where he is next week.”
Unhappy Returns – The Browns have been unable to find consistency or production while returning punts through the first 5 games but special teams coordinator Chris Tabor thinks he might have found a solution: Duke Johnson.
“We have gone up statistically the last couple of games. We are making strides there,” Tabor said. “Obviously, not where I want it to be or it is not at the level that the Cleveland Browns’ return unit should be, but my glass is not half empty. It is half full, so to speak. Duke is doing a nice job for us fielding the ball cleanly, and I expect that area to improve.”
Johnson is averaging 12.7 yards on 3 returns and has the longest return of the season – 18 yards. Joe Haden, Jordan Poyer and Tramon Williams have all gotten looks returning punts but have totaled just 20 yards between them on 5 returns attempts.
“Duke has kind of been a natural guy. He is getting better and better each week,” Tabor said. “I would say that with all of our punt returners with regards to catching the ball. It is just that when we get the opportunities, which I think when we have had opportunities we are starting to get… What I always say is we need to get 10 yards first. We need to get the first first-down, and then after that, everything is gravy.
“I know everyone would like a 65-yarder or 75-yarder and so would I, but at the end of the day, if you say the Cleveland Browns average a first down after they catch the ball, you are helping field position.”
Tribe Town – Horton joined the ranks of many in Berea wishing the Indians luck this during the playoffs the last few weeks.
“Good luck to the Indians tonight. I know we will be pulling for them,” Horton said as he opened his Friday presser. “It is nice to watch the city react to the sports teams here doing a great job, and that is where we want to get and so we are working as hard as we can to be just like the Cavs and the Indians and make everybody proud. I know we will have an ear to the TV and watch those guys tonight.”
The Indians host the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 1 of the ALCS Friday night at Progressive Field.
Injury Report – OUT: QB Josh McCown (left shoulder), WR Corey Coleman (hand), TE Randall Telfer (ankle), TE Seth DeValve (knee); QUESTIONABLE: TE Gary Barnidge (forearm/hip), DL Xavier Cooper (shoulder), CB Joe Haden (groin); EXPECTED TO PLAY: LT Joe Thomas (knee), QB Cody Kessler (chest/ribs), C Cameron Erving (chest/lung), CB Tramon Williams (shoulder)