BEREA — Browns quarterback Jason Campbell was cleared to return to practice Thursday, putting him in the mix to start against the New England Patriots.
The ninth-year pro suffered a concussion on Nov. 24 when Pittsburgh cornerback William Gay delivered a left-handed blow to his face mask. The play went unpenalized by referee Terry McAulay, but Gay was later fined $15,750 by the NFL office for striking Campbell’s “head and neck area.”
“It’s very encouraging, but Jason still has not — and will not — pass the independent neurologist test until we see how he does,” Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski said prior to practice.
“In the next 24-48 hours, obviously, we would have more information on that. He would need to pass that before he would be cleared to play in the game.”
Campbell worked as the top quarterback during early positional drills, returning to the role that he held for four weeks after taking over for Brandon Weeden in late October.
His comeback was welcome news to the Browns, who were preparing to start either Alex Tanney or Caleb Hanie at New England — neither of whom was on their roster two weeks ago. Cleveland plays the Patriots on Sunday afternoon.
“Just getting Jason back in the walk-through, I think everyone felt a sense of relief in terms of continuity,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “Now, we’re going to work all three guys and make sure we’ve covered all the bases in terms of getting ready.”
Chudzinski and Turner both made it clear that they aren’t rushing Campbell back, even though Weeden has not practiced since absorbing a concussion Sunday in the Browns’ 32-28 loss to Jacksonville.
Tanney has never appeared in a regular-season game, while Hanie is 0-4 as a starter with a 41.6 passer rating in five previous NFL campaigns.
“It’s obvious we have to make sure we do the right things with Jason, but we also have to make sure that the other guys know what they’re doing,” Turner said, adding that this is the first time in his 29-year pro career that he didn’t know which quarterback was starting this late in the week.
Chudzinski agreed, saying, “As far as Tanney and Hanie, we’ll continue to evaluate them in practice.”
Campbell is 1-3 as a starter this season, while Weeden is 0-5. Brian Hoyer went 3-0 before suffering a torn right anterior cruciate ligament on Oct. 3 against Buffalo.