BEREA — Receiver David Nelson wasn’t able to practice for almost a year after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament. That wasn’t as tough as spending the last two weeks on the sideline with a bone bruise in the same knee.
“I’d say these past few weeks were harder than the entire year,” he said Sunday after practicing in the final session of training camp. “I was kind of feeling I’m part of the team, and then taking a step back.”
Nelson tore the ACL in the opener last September with Buffalo. He signed a one-year free-agent deal with the Browns in April but missed the entire offseason.
He finally returned to practice on the second day of camp, only to leave practice less than a week later on Aug. 1. He rejoined his teammates Sunday.
Nelson was frustrated by the time out, but insisted the latest injury was a bone bruise and unrelated to the ACL. He said he planted, the knee hyperextended and the bone bruised.
“It just happened to be in the same knee and it just happened to be in the same area, but it could have happened to my other knee,” he said. “That’s what’s frustrating about it because I was making progress with the work that I’d been doing on the surgically repaired knee and just separate, freak deal. It was just frustrating because I felt like I was back and I was ready to go and then it just took a step back.”
Nelson, who was limited to receiver drills and sprints on the side Sunday, said he returned quicker from the bone bruise than the original prognosis and hopes he can play Saturday in the third preseason game at Indianapolis.
“I gotta continue to talk to Chud and the trainers, and they’re being very cautious with it,” he said. “At the same time I’m pushing the envelope, and I’m trying to do everything I can to be in there, to be ready to go for this game and just let Coach and the trainers dictate whatever they want to.
“I know that training camp’s coming to an end, but I’ve been working my tail off for the past two weeks to get back out here. I was hungry to get back out here and it felt good to just know all the work we put in, the trainers, myself, the coaches have put in the past two weeks has paid off and now we’re moving in the right direction.”
Running back Dion Lewis had evolved into someone offensive coordinator Norv Turner was building into his plans for the regular season. Then Lewis’ fibula broke Thursday night against the Lions.
Lewis, who’s smaller and quicker than the rest of the backs, is scheduled for surgery and could miss the season.
“He’s a guy that I think was going to give us some big plays,” Turner said. “I’d love to see him be able to come back.
“We have guys who can handle that role. I don’t know if we have a guy like Dion, but we have guys that can be pass protectors, that can catch the ball coming out of the backfield. Ultimately you’d like Trent (Richardson) to have some of that role, particularly in two-minute situations, end-of-the-game situations. You’d like him to do some of that because if you got your best player and on third downs he’s always on the sideline, you’re probably not taking advantage of all your guys. We can’t wear Trent out, but we have to be able to use him in some of those situations.”
Turner liked what he saw from Richardson’s preseason debut Thursday against the Lions. He rushed six times for 33 yards (5.5 average) with a long of 17.
“He is really rolling right now,” Richardson said. “I’m impressed with what I see in practice, the plays he had in the game he was outstanding and he’s a guy that defenses have to gear their thinking to stopping.”
LINE ’EM UP
Left tackle Joe Thomas has been to the Pro Bowl after each of his six seasons. Center Alex Mack went after the 2010 season and was first alternate last year.
With rookie Garrett Gilkey, a seventh-round pick, forced into the starting lineup by ankle injuries to right guards Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston, Turner was asked if he would shift Gilkey to the left side so he could fit between the Pro Bowlers. Veteran John Greco could move to the right side.
“When you’re solid over on that left side, you want to stay solid,” Turner said.
When right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is added to the equation, the Browns have four solid starters. But Turner still won’t be able to hide Gilkey.
“The guy’s got to go play and he’s got to hold up and people will game-plan against him, but I think we can make the kind of progress we want and I think we can be ready when the season starts,” Turner said.
SCHOOL CAN WAIT
Rookie running back Jamaine Cook, who went to Midpark High School, was re-signed Sunday morning and practiced. Defensive back Kenronte Walker was waived.
Cook had just moved back to Youngstown State on Friday to finish his accounting degree when he got the call from the Browns following Lewis’ injury. He worked out for the Browns along with former Texans third-round pick Steve Slaton and was given the roster spot.
“I had to make a big decision, but I’ve got to do what I love,” Cook said of leaving school. “I don’t want to live with any regrets. I’m glad to be back out here.”
Cook (5-foot-9, 210) was signed as an undrafted free agent April 30 after 4,052 career rushing yards and 39 touchdowns at YSU. He was waived May 21.
“It was crushing because I thought I was performing well,” he said.
Turner said he’s been preparing for life without receiver Josh Gordon, who’ll serve a two-game suspension to start the season. Travis Benjamin and Davone Bess are expected to see increased time.
“I think we have some real good ideas on how we’re going to make up for that loss in those first two games,” Turner said. “We have guys and we’re just going to have to move them around and do some things a little different.”
Observers have questioned Gordon’s effort in practice, but Turner has been pleased.
“Josh has done what we’ve asked him to do,” Turner said. “He’s improved. He’s fought through some nagging injuries. He’s fought through some times where he’s tired. He needs to continue to finish plays and make plays on the ball and use his body and he’s improving in that area.”
The Browns were in full pads Sunday, and there was a lot of extra contact.
Receiver Tori Gurley and linebacker Tank Carder got tangled and then continued to scrap during a special teams drill. Gurley squared up as if to box Carder and defensive lineman Billy Winn stepped in.
Winn ripped off Gurley’s helmet, then took off his own. Gurley again squared to box, but coach Rob Chudzinski came in, grabbed Gurley and took him to another field. Winn didn’t approve of Gurley’s antics and screamed at him as he was led away.
Helmets came off again in a group pass-rushing drill to end practice. Nose tackle Nicolas Jean-Baptiste ripped off the helmet of offensive lineman Martin Wallace and tried to fire it at him.
Defensive line coach Joe Cullen yanked Jean-Baptiste from the drill and yelled at him.
** Quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell were knocked to the ground despite wearing the off-limit red jerseys.
Carder came through untouched on a blitz and shoved Campbell, who fell backward. Weeden was thrown lightly to the ground by cornerback Buster Skrine after a run.
Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant (back) and cornerback Trevin Wade (shoulder) didn’t practice and weren’t on the field. Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (lung), kicker Brandon Bogotay (groin), punter T.J. Conley (groin), tight end Gary Barnidge (shoulder) and receivers Jordan Norwood (hamstring) and Naaman Roosevelt (hamstring) were on the field but didn’t practice.
** Cornerback Chris Owens was back with the starters after missing Saturday with an illness.
** Veteran tackle Oniel Cousins worked as the second-team right guard.
** Some season-ticket holders watched practice and a couple of kids had giant pictures of the heads of Richardson and Mingo on sticks. Richardson got a big kick out of them.
“That’s funny, man,” he said.
** Tight end Jordan Cameron was given the afternoon off from team drills.
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