BEREA — The supersized sigh of relief came from the Browns’ coaching staff, offense and defense. Quarterback Jason Campbell was cleared to play and will start Sunday in New England.
The uncertainty from the beginning of the week was replaced by a sense of comfort Friday as Campbell practiced for the second straight day, and looked good doing it. Coach Rob Chudzinski still had to decide between just-arrived Caleb Hanie and never-played Alex Tanney, but it’s for the backup spot.
“It’s good to see that Jason’s healthy and he’s ready to go,” tight end Jordan Cameron said. “It’s good to have that leadership and that confidence in your quarterback. It’s awesome.”
Campbell was a full participant in practice Friday after being limited Thursday.
“He’s been in the meetings, and then to go out on the practice field and be as sharp as he’s been is important,” Chudzinski said. “I have all of the confidence in the world in Jason.”
Brandon Weeden was ruled out as he continues to recover from the concussion he sustained Sunday against Jacksonville. He didn’t practice this week.
Campbell sustained a concussion Nov. 24 when Steelers cornerback William Gay belted him in the face mask with his left hand on a blitz. Campbell said the concussion came from the rotation of his head after contact, but he didn’t think Gay meant to hit him in the head or the play was dirty.
Campbell, who said his only other concussion came in the 2011 preseason, experienced headaches, dizziness and light sensitivity. He was unable to play last Sunday, but the symptoms cleared by early this week. He ran Monday and Tuesday and by Wednesday felt he’d be able to return to his starting role. He said the medical staff didn’t allow him back on the field until he was 100 percent.
“I feel great,” he said. “I had a great two days of practice.”
Campbell is 1-3 as the starter, but has the confidence of his teammates after reigniting the offense when he took over for an ineffective Weeden in Week 8. Campbell has completed 56.9 percent for 933 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions and a 79.8 rating.
He embraced his chance to be a starter again after nearly two years, and didn’t want the opportunity to end because of the concussion.
“You’re sitting home that long, you feel like you’re missing something, like you’ve been punished or something, like I’ve been suspended from school basically,” said Campbell, who’s 32-43 as a starter. “But I’m just glad to be back out here with these guys and to finish the season out together and put together four great games and do the best you can.”
Campbell’s performances in a close loss at Kansas City and a win against Baltimore had his teammates believing they could make the playoffs. Campbell wasn’t nearly as effective in losses to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh — before leaving with the concussion — but was also affected by a rib injury that left him in “a lot of pain.”
“It’s been a roller-coaster season,” he said. “There’s been some highs and there’s been some lows. You start off good and then a rib injury and you kind of focus on recovering from that and you try to get yourself back into a rhythm in the Pittsburgh game and then you’re sidelined again with a concussion. So hopefully these next four weeks we can focus, especially myself, just focus on growing and trying to get better.
“Everything is healthy now and this is probably the best I’ve felt since I got the chance to play.”
Campbell’s return to health saves the Browns from going with Hanie or Tanney against coach Bill Belichick and the 9-3 Patriots and using one of the alternate game plans. Chudzinski said the coaches would discuss Friday afternoon who’d be the backup, but it wouldn’t be announced until Sunday. The Browns have gone with two active quarterbacks on gameday all year, but could keep three active this week.
Hanie is a six-year veteran with four career starts, giving him the experience edge over Tanney, who’s never taken a regular-season snap. Hanie arrived Monday, but feels he can handle the job if Campbell gets hurt.
“I feel pretty comfortable with everything we’ve put in, and the stuff we’ve run in practice, I feel really comfortable with,” he said.
The defense was also grateful for the return of Campbell.
“He’s going to help us,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “He’s played well when he was healthy, and he’s shown he can be a trooper and take a pounding and still come back. So I’m happy for him, and he’s going to give this team a big boost.”
Defensive end Desmond Bryant had cardiac ablation Friday morning at the Cleveland Clinic to correct an irregular heartbeat. The surgical procedure went as expected, according to a team spokesman, and Bryant’s expected to make a full recovery.
Bryant had 3.5 sacks and leads the team with 32 quarterback harassments – pressures and hits. He was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list Wednesday and will miss the final four games.
Nose tackle Phil Taylor was fined $7,875 by the NFL for grabbing and twisting the face mask of Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Jaguars safety Winston Guy wasn’t fined for a hit to the head of Browns receiver Josh Gordon that drew a 15-yard penalty.
** Inside linebackers Craig Robertson (knee) and Tank Carder (shoulder) and tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) were listed as questionable on the injury report after being limited in practice all week. Robertson is expected to start after missing two games.
** Starting tight tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) and rookie receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) are out for the Patriots. Ten players, including tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm/hamstring), were listed as questionable.
** Weeden was listed on the injury report with a concussion and knee, but Chudzinski said the knee injury isn’t serious.
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WHO: Cleveland vs. New England
WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
TV/RADIO: Channel 19; WKNR 850-AM, WKRK 92.3-FM, WNCX 98.5-FM