BEREA – When Brian Hoyer runs onto the field Sunday in Minnesota in the orange helmet he grew up cheering, he will be the 19th starting quarterback since the Browns returned in 1999.
He’ll be the first North Olmsted native and St. Ignatius graduate.
“I’m definitely excited,” Hoyer said Wednesday. “This is an opportunity you practice for, you prepare for and obviously I’m excited and I’ll try to take advantage of it and give this team everything I’ve got to help us get that first win.”
Hoyer was inactive the first two games and No. 3 on the depth chart, but coach Rob Chudzinski picked him over No. 2 Jason Campbell. A decision was necessary because Brandon Weeden was ruled out for this week with a sprained right thumb.
“I feel like based on our current situation where we’re at offensively as well as getting into the game-planning for Minnesota that Brian’s strengths are the best fit for this week and that he gives us our best chance to win,” Chudzinski said.
He didn’t guarantee Weeden would regain his starting spot when he’s healthy enough to return.
“I’m going to leave all the options open,” Chudzinski said. “Really, it’s a matter of where he’s at from a health standpoint and all that plays into it and where we’re at and how guys are playing.”
Weeden has a brace on his hand, rode the stationary bike and worked with the trainers during practice. He was scheduled to meet with a hand specialist today.
“Early indications are that it is not a long-term issue,” Chudzinski said. “Everything has been positive up to this point. We’ll get a better indication later on this week on his status going forward.”
Chudzinski said he didn’t know if there’s a chance Weeden will need surgery. Weeden said he hasn’t heard a prognosis after banging his throwing hand on John Greco’s helmet Sunday in the fourth quarter of the 14-6 loss to the Ravens.
“I don’t even know anything. I have been in this brace the whole time,” he said. “I will know more (today).”
Weeden didn’t know Chudzinski had told reporters he may not regain his job.
“I don’t worry about that stuff,” he said.
The Browns are 0-2 and have scored one touchdown and 16 points. Around the league 111 touchdown passes have been thrown, the most in the first two weeks of a season.
Weeden struggled at times – 55 percent completion rate, a touchdown, three interceptions, 62.0 rating – but didn’t get much help. The line allowed 11 sacks, and receiver Greg Little was demoted from the starting lineup Wednesday after dropping at least four passes.
“We’re 0-2 right now,” Chudzinski said. “So we’re looking to shake things up so we start winning games. And hopefully this will give us the spark that we need.”
Hoyer (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) will turn 28 next month. He was undrafted out of Michigan State in 2009 and spent three seasons with the Patriots backing up Tom Brady. He was cut at the end of camp last year, then picked up and released by Pittsburgh and Arizona. The Browns signed him to a two-year, $1.965 million contract May 17 after Arizona dumped him.
“This is what I came here for is to play,” Hoyer said. “You don’t come to be just a guy and I think anybody who plays this position in this league, they want to be out on the field.
“There can only be one quarterback out there and you want to be that guy and if you don’t have that drive, then you really don’t belong. So when Chud told me the news (Tuesday), I was excited. I wish we could go out and play the game right now.”
He’s made one start in his four-plus years in the league, the finale for the Cardinals last year at San Francisco.
He went 19-for-34 (55.9 percent) for 225 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 73.8 rating in a 27-13 loss.
Hoyer played the entire preseason finale because Campbell was ill, and Hoyer impressed. General manager Michael Lombardi has been a fan for years and said during his broadcasting days Hoyer could be a starter.
Chudzinski said the decision was his alone, and not about wanting to see what Hoyer can do in the starting role.
“For me, it’s about who gives us the best chance to win this week,” he said.
Hoyer views it as more than a spot start. He wants to prove he can be a long-term starter.
“Anytime you get a chance to play, you’re building your resume, you’re putting yourself out there,” he said. “So you look at guys all around the league who’ve played a few games here or there, now they’re starters and they’re doing a great job.
“So I think for me, that’s kind of in the back of my mind. For me, it’s all about this week, doing the best I can to prepare to help this team win.”
Chudzinski said Campbell, who’s started 71 games, handled the news like a “real pro.”
“He said he’ll be ready if we need him,” Chudzinski said.
Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier told reporters the Vikings has been studying Campbell the last couple of days and will switch to Hoyer. Chudzinski announced the news Wednesday morning.
“It’s a lot better than finding out at noon on Sunday,” Frazier said.
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas arrived in 2007 and has never made it through the year with the same quarterback. He called Hoyer leapfrogging Campbell “unusual.”
“It’s the NFL. That’s the way it is,” Thomas said. “Guys get hurt and people get leapfrogged and coaches and guys put the players that they want to see in the game.
“It’s unfortunate Brandon is hurt, but I know Brian is going to do a good job when he gets in there. He’s a really smart player. He’s a guy that plays with great tempo. He throws the ball accurately. He gets the ball out to the guy that needs to get the ball and I think he’s going to do a great job for us.”
In Thomas’ first game with the Browns in the 2007 opener, quarterback Charlie Frye was benched before halftime of a 34-7 loss to the Steelers and replaced by Derek Anderson. Frye was traded a couple of days later and Anderson led the Browns to a 10-6 record.
Chudzinski was offensive coordinator under coach Romeo Crennel, but said the turnaround six years ago didn’t contribute to his decision.
“I think it’s just evidence that change could be good,” he said. “It just remains to be seen how good Brian plays. I am expecting him to play well.”
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz was asked if Hoyer can provide a spark to the sputtering offense.
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “He’s a good player obviously. I don’t think by any stretch the first two weeks are on Brandon. A lot of it’s on us not keeping him healthy.”
The timing of the injury is bad for Weeden. He was supposed to use this year to show he’s a legitimate NFL starter. Instead, he’ll be watching after two subpar weeks.
“You never want to get hurt,” Weeden said. “I don’t care when it is, could be the 16th game or the first game, as a player you want to be out there. So, yeah, it is frustrating.
“Even though the results weren’t there offensively we were starting to do some better things. I want to be out there with my guys.”