September 17, 2014

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The play’s not the thing: Health is biggest concern for Browns as preseason wraps up tonight

A win would be nice, and a solid performance even better.
A good medical report is crucial.
The Browns (0-3) close the preseason tonight with a visit from the Bears (0-3). A victory would spare the Browns their first winless preseason since 1972. It might also allow fans to take a deep breath after a sobering stretch of preseason that saw the Browns outclassed in consecutive losses to the Giants and Lions.
“At some point in time you need to play well. I don’t think we’ve played up to our potential yet, and that’s pretty obvious,” tight end Steve Heiden said. “Does it worry me? No. But if this continues, yeah.”
The preseason finale is full of anxiety for coaches and general managers. The game must be played and acquiring some momentum for the season would be beneficial, but escaping further injury is paramount.
“The whole focus now is getting to Monday with as many of our best 53 as we can,” general manager Phil Savage said. “We will be close to doing it.”
Quarterback Derek Anderson, running back Jamal Lewis, receiver Braylon Edwards, safeties Sean Jones and Brodney Pool, linebacker Willie McGinest and kick returner Joshua Cribbs won’t play as they recover from injuries. They are expected to return to practice Monday.
The rest of the starters are expected to play versus the Bears, but they may only play a series or two to minimize the health risk. While that suggests an evening of boredom, there are reasons to watch: Brady Quinn and roster battles.
Coach Romeo Crennel said Quinn might play the entire first half as he tries to improve on an inconsistent performance in his first start Saturday versus the Lions.
“I’d love for Brady to play better and get some quality work,” Savage said.
Quinn is 34-for-53 in the preseason for 363 yards, one touchdown, one interception and an 82.5 rating. After a good performance replacing Anderson versus the Giants, Quinn struggled versus the Lions. He played into the third quarter, but managed just two field goals.
He wants to improve in a number of areas.
“Becoming more consistent, putting more points on the board and really showing much better execution on my part, managing the game, doing things in an efficient fashion,” Quinn said. “Our whole team has a heightened sense of urgency.
“We know the season’s coming.”
That means roster cuts. The Browns must trim 22 players to get to the season limit of 53 by Saturday afternoon. The vast majority of the roster spots are accounted for, but battles remain at receiver and in the secondary.
Travis Wilson could get his third straight start at receiver tonight in place of Edwards, but that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed a job. He’s gone two straight games without a catch and is fighting with Syndric Steptoe, Steve Sanders and rookie Paul Hubbard for two roster spots.
Crennel has been visibly frustrated by his team’s performance the past two games. He knows the slate is erased after tonight, but thinks it’s important for the Browns to get in the habit of winning.
“It depends on the team that you have and what your team has experienced in the past,” he said when asked about the weight of preseason results. “If you have a team that needs to develop a winning attitude, then it is really important that you win.
“If you have got a veteran team that is pretty confident in itself, if you don’t win, then you can still play good in the regular season. We are somewhere in the middle.”

Notes

The Browns will celebrate “Play Football Month” by providing tickets to nearly 3,500 area children.
The Amherst and Keystone youth programs will scrimmage during halftime.
The color guard will be presented by the Lorain Correctional Honor Guard.
Limited tickets are available.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.
   

TONIGHT

WHO: Chicago at Cleveland
TIME: 7:30
WHERE: Browns Stadium
TV/RADIO: Channel 3; WMMS 100.7-FM, WTAM 1100-AM