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Game preview: Browns and Bears have been dropping the curtain on the preseason for nine years in a row

Aug 30, 2012 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi


The Morning Kickoff …

What: Browns (2-1) v. Chicago Bears (2-1) 7:30 p.m. in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

TV: WKYC-TV 3 with Jim Donovan, Bernie Kosar and Dave Chudowsky.

The set-up: This is the game that nobody wants to play, coach or watch. It is important only for about a dozen players vying for maybe five spots on the bottom of the roster. It’s very likely that those spots will be turned over after the league roster cuts on Friday, anyway. Few coaches play their starters anymore in this final practice game. Yet when Pat Shurmur announced that rookie QB Brandon Weeden and most of his starters would not play, he was roundly criticized. Such is life for an unproven coach with a 4-12 record whose new owner watched his team get lambasted by the Eagles in the last practice game.

Series history: This is the ninth consecutive year the Browns and Bears have met in the preseason finale. The reason is this: Since 2002, the NFL makes up the preseason schedule for Games 1-3. The teams themselves are responsible only for Game 4. The Browns and Bears have enjoyed a preseason relationship for the following reasons: 1. They are uncommon regular-season opponents from different conferences. 2. They both play on grass surfaces. 3. They are close geographically. The teams have split 5-5 in previous preseason meetings since 1999. Overall, the Browns lead in preseason games, 17-10.

Bears update: Pegged by some as an under-radar Super Bowl contender, the Bears historically have mailed in their last practice game under coach Lovie Smith. They are not expected to play prime players such as Julius Peppers, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher (knee). The Bears have an issue with punter Adam Podlesh (hip) and put in a claim for waived Browns punter Spencer Lanning, who was awarded to the Jets. The Bears are trying to decide if they want to carry a veteran third quarterback behind Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell, so we may see plenty of Josh McCown tonight. Also we might get a glimpse of rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery, whom the Browns passed in the second round to select offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

Browns update: Shurmur has decided to start Colt McCoy at quarterback, which means one of two things: Either the Browns are determined to trade him and want him to put up one more good showing, or they have settled on him as their top backup. Seneca Wallace and Thaddeus Lewis will also play. The jobs that appear to be on the line tonight are: backup strong safety (David Sims v. Usama Young), sixth wide receiver (Jordan Norwood v. Josh Cooper), fourth defensive end (Emmanuel Stephens v. Brian Sanford v. William Green v. Ernest Osuwu) and fourth tight end or H-back (Evan Moore v. Dan Gronkowski v. Brad Smelley).

Our take: Marty Schottenheimer used to say that the fourth preseason game is the most quickly forgotten game a team ever plays. Others have said the only news to come out of the last practice game is bad news. In other words, a good night is one in which there are no major injuries recorded. It’s possible that McCoy can attract a trade with Green Bay with a decent performance, but I’m doubtful the Packers will take the bait.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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