BEREA — Punter Dave Zastudil doesn’t want to miss another game, but he knows that might be the only thing that allows his back to heal and him to return to form.
“Sometimes you need rest,” he said Wednesday. “It’s a long season.”
Zastudil didn’t rule himself out for Sunday’s game in Oakland, but the Browns signed veteran Scott Player on Tuesday. Zastudil was limited in practice Wednesday and Player was taking the snaps in the half-hour open to the media.
Coach Romeo Crennel acknowledged the team’s discussed putting Zastudil on the shelf for a bit.
“We’re not exactly sure where he is,” he said. “We’re still looking forward to him being able to play, but he’s still sore.”
“I need to rest it. I just don’t know how long that’ll be,” Zastudil said.
He strained the back Sept. 3 in practice and was unable to kick in the opener. Paul Ernster was signed and dropped the first snap vs. Pittsburgh. He was waived to make room for Player.
Zastudil punted twice vs. Cincinnati and “slightly aggravated” the muscle near his ribcage when he kicked with maximum effort.
“It tightened up on me pretty good,” said Zastudil, who averaged 43 yards on two punts. “I have to get it back to where I can go out and play.
“I’m taking it day by day. I don’t want to make any promises (about Oakland). It’s bothering me right now pretty good. I’ll let it settle, ice it a lot and see where it goes.”
Player was brought in for a tryout during Week 1 but the Browns went with Ernster.
“I think Player gives me a more long-term answer,” Crennel said. “Before I was looking for a more short-term answer.”
Player, 37, is a nine-year veteran and would’ve been guaranteed his entire salary of $720,000 if he’d been signed before the opener. By signing now, he’s only guaranteed 25 percent of the prorated salary.
“I’m sure that had a lot to do with it,” he said. “And they thought Dave would be back after the first game.”
Player was working out in Arizona after being waived by the Cardinals on Aug. 29.
“It was just a matter of time before I was somewhere,” he said. “I’m here as long as they need me and will do the best job possible. It beats being home watching TV.”
Player is believed to be the only player in the league with a single bar on his facemask. He said it’s a personal choice that helps his vision.
“I carry them with me. I’ve got a stock of them,” he said.
The Browns’ gray facemasks match those of the Cardinals, with whom Player spent his career.
“I didn’t have to get the Krylon out for that one,” he joked.
Starter Brodney Pool (concussion) and backup Mike Adams (wrist/shoulder) didn’t practice Wednesday, leaving the Browns with one healthy safety in Sean Jones. Crennel said if they weren’t better by the end of the week, the Browns would likely have to sign a free agent.
The Browns could also get help from Gary Baxter, who has been limited in practice in his recovery from a pair of torn patellar tendons. He told the Canton Repository on Monday that it’s “50-50” whether he’ll play vs. Oakland.
“We’ll see what he can get done (Wednesday) and then we’ll make an evaluation as the week goes along to see if he can help out,” Crennel said.
Baxter has been lining up with the scout team but hasn’t taken many repetitions with the first and second teams, according to Crennel.
“I think he knows the regular defense pretty well,” he said. “We just have to put him out there and he has to show us that he can handle the things we need him to handle.”
Adams’ hand was in a brace Wednesday. Crennel said he also has a shoulder bruise.
Derek Anderson was named AFC Player of the Week for his 328-yard, five-touchdown performance vs. the Bengals. It was his first win in the fourth start of his career.
“It is a good honor for him, considering that he was in a competition during training camp, was the backup for the first game and then ended up starting,” Crennel said.
Anderson promised not to let the success go to his head.
“I’m the same guy,” he said. “I still have to come in and keep putting the work in.”
Trent Dilfer was the last Browns quarterback to win the award after Week 2 in 2005. Kick returner Joshua Cribbs (special teams) and safety Sean Jones (defense) won AFC awards last year.
Cornerback Leigh Bodden (groin) and linebacker Antwan Peek (foot) didn’t practice but are expected to play Sunday.
• Crennel said linebacker Willie McGinest (back surgery) is running and will begin to do more cutting. Crennel said his return is on schedule, which could put him back next week vs. Baltimore.
• The 45 points by the Bengals on Sunday were the most given up by the Browns in a win in franchise history. They allowed 40 in a win over the Giants in 1966.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.