BEREA — The Browns haven’t played a preseason game, but they’re already down two outside linebackers.
Starter Willie McGinest and backup/special teamer Matt Stewart had surgeries Thursday. McGinest had surgery in Los Angeles to fix a bulging disc in his back and will miss at least six weeks. Stewart had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and will miss the season.
McGinest, 35, signed a three-year, $12 million deal last offseason to bolster the pass rush. He was limited by calf and ankle injuries and had just four sacks. He was better versus the run, totaling 67 tackles in 13 starts.
Coach Romeo Crennel said McGinest will rest for a week before beginning rehab. If he returned in six weeks, he would miss the first two regular-season games. Crennel said McGinest had a previous problem in the same area of the back and chose to have the surgery immediately to minimize the games missed.
“He’s going to come back and we’re going to try to get him ready to play the remainder of the season,” Crennel said. “Backs are backs and they’re fickle sometimes. After six weeks, that will be an indicator of how soon he’ll be back.
“Willie wants to get back as soon as he can, because he wants to play.”
Free-agent pickup Antwan Peek will take McGinest’s starting spot, and Chaun Thompson will move back to the outside after a year inside. Peek was signed to rush the passer on third down and spell McGinest. He will be counted on to do more now.
“That’s what they brought me in here for, to be in there when Willie can’t,” Peek said. “It’s a great opportunity for me, I’m ready to go.
“I have a lot of respect for Willie. We need him, so I’m just looking forward to taking his place and doing what I can to help this team win until he gets back.”
Stewart, who was on the bubble to make the roster, played 16 games last year in his second season with the Browns. He made four starts and finished with 14 tackles and a sack. He started 12 games in 2005.
Left guard Eric Steinbach, who signed a seven-year, $49.5 million deal in the offseason, has a sprained posterior cruciate ligament and is expected to be out at least two weeks. He fell on his right knee Tuesday on the fieldhouse turf.
“He should be back in time for the regular season,” Crennel said. “I expect he’ll make a full recovery, come back and be the productive player that I know that he is, can be and I expect him to be.”
Journeyman Lennie Friedman has taken Steinbach’s place with the starters.
“Preseason games are all about opportunity,” he said. “You get to show your coaches and your team what you’re capable of.
“It’s my second year and I’m very comfortable with the guys.”
Leaving it to luck
Crennel is serious about flipping a coin Saturday night to determine the starting quarterback in the preseason opener vs. the Chiefs. Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson are the candidates.
“I think that’s probably the fairest way,” Crennel said.
Crennel said Frye and Anderson will alternate series for the first half, so each has the opportunity to work with the first and second teams.
“I’m going to make it as equal a competition as I can, so when I make a decision who the starter’s going to be they both will have had a good opportunity,” Crennel said.
Crennel joked that Frye and Anderson will play rock, paper, scissors to determine who’ll call the flip.
Cornerbacks Gary Baxter (recovering from knee surgery) and DeMario Minter (foot), defensive end Orpheus Roye (knee), nose tackle J’Vonne Parker (concussion) and guard Isaac Sowells (concussion) will miss the Chiefs game.
Receiver Tim Carter (thumb) and cornerback Kenny Wright (groin) are doubtful.
Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar watched practice. He was wearing a No. 19 Indians jersey with KOSAR on the back. He will broadcast the preseason games on Channel 3.
• Right tackle Ryan Tucker, who is suspended for the first four regular-season games, took snaps at right guard.
• Marines from Brook Park watched practice.
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