October 21, 2014

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Browns sign backup Hanie, but still not sure which of four QBs will start this week

Caleb Hanie

Caleb Hanie

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is always busy on Tuesday as he puts together the game plan for the weekend. This Tuesday might’ve been the most hectic in his 23 years in the NFL.

Without knowing which of four quarterbacks will start Sunday in New England, Turner had to come up with multiple plans to take on Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden remained in the NFL’s concussion protocol Tuesday and need to be cleared by an independent physician before returning to practice or a game. Foxsports.com’s Alex Marvez reported Campbell will be tested today and is optimistic he’ll start Sunday, but the lingering uncertainty pushed the Browns to sign journeyman Caleb Hanie.

Alex Tanney

Alex Tanney

He joins Alex Tanney as the healthy quarterbacks on the roster, and one could be forced to start against the 9-3 Patriots. A team spokesman said the starter had yet to be determined. The practice week begins today.

“We’ll have different possibilities and we’ll have to see how it plays out during the course of the week, when guys can practice or be cleared to practice, or be cleared to play, then how much practice time they would need in those situations,” coach Rob Chudzinski said Monday. “It may be different for each guy.”

Campbell, who started four games before suffering a concussion Nov. 24 against Pittsburgh, would be the first choice to start.
He had been cleared to resume physical activity by Monday but not practice.

Weeden, who has started five games over three stretches, was diagnosed with a concussion Sunday following a 32-28 loss to Jacksonville in which he took every snap. He doesn’t know on what play he was injured.

The Browns lost Brian Hoyer in Week 5 to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament, so they could be on their fourth starter depending on the progress of Campbell and Weeden.

The rash of injuries at the game’s most important position is highly unusual, but not unprecedented in Cleveland. In 2008, the Browns used four starting quarterbacks: Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey and Bruce Gradkowski.

If Campbell (1-3 as the starter) and Weeden (0-5) are ruled out for the Patriots game, the Browns would be on their league-high 21st quarterback to start since returning in 1999. Chudzinski would be left to choose between Hanie and Tanney.

Not exactly Brett Favre vs. Aaron Rodgers. Or even Anderson vs. Charlie Frye.

Hanie, 28, was considered by the Browns last week, but the team chose to sign Tanney off Dallas’ practice squad. Tanney has never played in an NFL game and has practiced three days with the Browns.

He’s known best for his trick-shot video that has been viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube.com. He throws out an apartment window to a buddy in the back of a moving pickup truck, hits both uprights and the crossbar from midfield and deposits balls into trash cans from a variety of locations.

The package of plays for Tanney would be limited due to his inexperience and brief time in Cleveland, and Chudzinski may not want his first NFL action to come against Belichick in New England.

Hanie (6-foot-2, 222 pounds) has the clear edge in experience, even if much of it hasn’t been positive.

He’s been in the league since 2008, appearing in 10 games. He made his only four starts for the Bears in 2011, going 0-4. He completed 50 percent of his passes for 613 yards with three touchdowns and nine interceptions for a 41.8 rating.

Hanie (6-foot-2, 222 pounds) was cut by the Ravens in the preseason and has been out of the league since. He spent last year as Denver’s third quarterback.

Hanie was undrafted out of Colorado State.

Owens to IR

Nickelback Chris Owens (knee) and linebacker/special teamer Brandon Magee (pectoral) were placed on injured reserve after getting hurt against the Jaguars. Defensive back Julian Posey (5-10, 190 pounds) was promoted from the practice squad for the second time this year.

Owens played 12 games, including three starts, totaling 54 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He also had seven special teams tackles. He signed a one-year, $1 million deal as a free agent in the offseason.

His absence will mean more playing time for rookie third-round pick Leon McFadden, who’s expected to be the third cornerback and play in nickel situations. McFadden hasn’t registered a tackle on defense — he has four on special teams — but has seen his most playing time the last two weeks in the dime package, playing 10 snaps versus Pittsburgh and 31 versus Jacksonville. He
also replaced Owens in the nickel package at the end of the game Sunday.

Magee, a rookie, appeared in eight games and had three special teams tackles.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.