BEREA – Barkevious Mingo’s NFL regular-season debut has been delayed at least a week.
He may be joined on the sideline Sunday by starting defensive end Ahtyba Rubin and starting cornerback Buster Skrine.
Mingo, the No. 6 pick in April, was ruled out for the opener against the Dolphins as he continues to recover from a bruised lung suffered last month. Rubin (calf) and Skrine (shoulder) didn’t practice Friday and were listed as questionable on the official injury report, which is supposed to mean there’s a 50-50 chance of playing.
“He’s not ready to go yet for this week,” coach Rob Chudzinski said of Mingo.
Like he had done all week, Mingo went through agility drills but was held out of any contact.
“I really want to be out there with the team,” he said. “I want to be out there in my first game, but look on the bright side, I’m doing better and I’m just getting ready to come back whenever they let me come back.”
Since the injury, Mingo seemed like a long shot to play Week 1 and veteran Quentin Groves has been preparing to take his spot in a rotation at outside linebacker. The injuries to Rubin and Skrine were a game-week surprise and could have the Browns scrambling, especially in the secondary.
Skrine won the starting job opposite Joe Haden after a training camp competition with Chris Owens. Chudzinski said Skrine hurt the shoulder Thursday during practice. He rode the stationary bike Friday during the half-hour open to reporters.
“We’ll treat him in the next 48 hours,” Chudzinski said. “We’ll see how he responds for the game.”
Owens would replace Skrine as the starter, with rookie third-round pick Leon McFadden ascending to No. 3 corner.
“Buster, he’s been working real hard, that would be a big setback for him, as far as our defense is concerned,” Haden said. “It’s next man up and we’re gonna have to figure out a way to make it happen.”
With Skrine, the Browns have four corners on the 53-man roster. Without him, they would have to seriously consider activating someone from the practice squad, possibly Julian Posey, who was signed Monday.
“That’s always a possibility, but we feel like we have three safeties that can play corner as well,” Chudzinski said, referring to starting free safety Tashaun Gipson, backup free safety Johnson Bademosi and rookie backup strong safety Josh Aubrey. “We’re comfortable with doing that.”
Owens said he’s 100 percent after missing much of the preseason with a foot strain. McFadden missed a chunk of camp with a groin injury and returned for the last two preseason games. He played a lot and was picked on, giving up several completions.
“I’m a lot more confident now,” he said. “I got my feet wet and I’m excited to play now.
“I feel like I just have to be prepared for whenever my number’s called. So that’s being mentally prepared, studying my playbook and when I go out there, give it my all.”
The Dolphins receivers could pose problems for even a healthy secondary. Mike Wallace, perhaps the fastest man in the league, is their No. 1 wideout after signing a $60 million deal in free agency. He’s joined by Brian Hartline (74 catches, 1,083 yards, one touchdown in 2012) and Brandon Gibson (51, 691, five).
“They’re damn good, Owens said. “They’ve got a lot of money in that receiving corps, too. So we’ve got our hands full.”
Rubin, who missed three games last season with a calf injury, has been a full-time starter the last three years and is one of the team’s best and highest-paid players. But the Browns are their deepest on the defensive line and should be able to absorb the loss if he can’t go. He wasn’t on the field for the part of practice open to the media.
Billy Winn would likely get the start at end, with John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and rookie seventh-rounder Armonty Bryant seeing more time.
“Billy is very versatile,” Chudzinski said. “I’m completely confident and comfortable with him in there, as well as Kitch and Armonty if Rube isn’t available.”
Inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson summed up the state of the defense when asked if it has enough depth to withstand the latest injuries.
“From the D-line standpoint, yes. From the secondary, it’s the next man up,” he said. “I think we have the depth to get it done, but the game’s going to be won on our defensive front. That’s where we make our money, that’s what we’re going to rely on to help those guys on the back end and vice versa.”
Mingo suffered the bruised lung Aug. 15 in a preseason game against the Lions. He still believes he was injured on the opening kickoff, even though he didn’t receive a “knockout hit.”
“They’re just trying to ease me back into the practices and have me do some stuff and see how it felt,” he said. “I felt great. I felt back to normal.”
Mingo nor Chudzinski would say he’ll be ready for Week 2 in Baltimore.
“We’ll see next week,” Chudzinski said.
Mingo replied “that’s personal” when asked if he had another round of medical tests and if the doctors have been optimistic. Chudzinski said he’s evaluated on a daily basis.
“He’s made progress every day,” Chudzinski said. “He’s running more and doing more things.”
Mingo spent two nights in the Cleveland Clinic after spitting up blood and experiencing shortness of breath during the Lions game. He said he hasn’t had a recurrence of the symptoms.
“The only positive, if I’m Mingo, you take from this is you’re happy it happened early,” Jackson said. “He’ll have his time, it’s a long season, this is just one year. He’s not on a four-year scholarship, so he’ll be here as long as those wheels can turn and he’s healthy. So he’ll be fine.”
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