December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Browns make up ground while not playing

BEREA — The Browns returned from the bye Monday to find themselves in better shape than when they left for the long weekend.
Not only did the bumps and bruises from the first six weeks have time to heal, both teams ahead of the Browns in the AFC North lost Sunday. Baltimore fell 19-14 at Buffalo and Pittsburgh lost 31-28 at Denver.
Coach Romeo Crennel was asked if he would mention the rivals’ stumbles to his players.
“They probably know that already. But I’m going to bring up the Rams,” he said. “That’s the only one we can do anything about. We can’t have any impact on those other teams.”
The Steelers lead the division at 4-2, with the Ravens a half-game back at 4-3 and the Browns another half-game back at 3-3. Cincinnati beat the Jets 38-31 to improve to 2-4.
“It’s encouraging,” receiver Joe Jurevicius said when asked about the Browns’ status in the division. “But we’ve got to take care of our own business. As the season progress, all those things always iron themselves out.
“Pittsburgh is tough, Baltimore is tough. We have a tough division, a tough schedule left.”
Crennel spent his one Sunday off watching the rest of the league. The results affirmed what he’s been saying for three years.
“Several teams were supposed to win that didn’t win,” he said. “There’s nothing you can take for granted in this league.”
That’s the message Crennel will once again try to convey to his team as it heads into a meeting with 0-7 St. Louis. The Rams average just over 11 points a game and allow more than 27. They’ve been decimated by injuries across the offensive line and at running back and quarterback.
No team has ever gone 0-16, so history suggests they will win sometime this season. The Browns are just three-point favorites and are 0-2 on the road, including at Oakland, which was 0-2 at the time.
That misstep is the only motivational tool Crennel needs.
“Just go to Oakland and see if you can show up (and win),” Crennel said. “You have to focus and be on top of it, because Oakland was a game we were supposed to win. We came up short.”
Jurevicius said the players learned their lesson. The victory over winless Miami before the bye was a step in the right direction.
“The biggest thing is not to get caught up in records,” he said. “The biggest thing right now is two games in a row. We need to work on winning two games in a row if we’re going to get anywhere this season.”
The Browns haven’t won two straight in the same season since October 2003, a stretch of 64 games.
“If we can jump that hurdle, it will really show that we’re learning and we are a better football team,” Jurevicius said.

Injury report

Crennel didn’t sound optimistic when asked if offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley would begin practicing this week. He was eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list last week, but the Browns can wait another two weeks to put him on the practice field.
“We’re evaluating that. I’m not going to say I’m going to do that yet,” Crennel said. “He’s rehabbing. He’s not ready yet. He’s made progress from August. If he continues to make progress, that improves his chances.”
Crennel said running back Jamal Lewis (foot) wouldn’t participate in a light practice Monday and would be limited Wednesday. Lewis said last Wednesday that he’d be ready for the Rams.
Jurevicius (knee) was limited but said he’d be ready Sunday.
Tight end Darnell Dinkins (hand) was limited.

Tribe thoughts

Jurevicius is a lifelong Indians fan and said he still takes the losses hard.
“Absolutely. It was kind of a tough pill to swallow when you go up 3-1,” he said. “The guys have nothing to hang their heads about. They did a lot of good for themselves and the city of Cleveland. The only thing they can do is get better, and that’s going to be a scary proposition for a lot of people in Major League Baseball.”
Crennel was asked about taking over center stage now that the Tribe’s season is over.
“We have a ways to go to get to where the Indians got to,” he said. “What we’ll try to do is be the best team we can be and hopefully we can get to where they were and give this town, these fans something to cheer for.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.