By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Let’s rock and roll: On Monday, Pat Shurmur fielded more questions about Colt McCoy than he cared to. His eyes almost rolled back at every mention of the backup quarterback. Wednesday, the Browns’ coach didn’t let it get to that.
“He was cleared to practice,” Shurmur said before being asked about Brandon Weeden, who left the Pittsburgh game with a concussion. “He participated in the meetings, participated in the walk-through, and he’ll do everything in practice today, and we’ll get him ready to start on Sunday.
“If there are some unforeseen setbacks, then, of course, Colt will start. But as we’re moving forward right now, he’s cleared to practice, and we’re moving ahead with Brandon.”
Asked if McCoy might receive a few extra reps this week, just in case Weeden has a relapse, Shurmur said, “No, not really. You get the starter ready to go.”
Weeden termed the concussion “mild,” the result of hitting his head on teammate Joe Thomas’ leg while being spun around late in the game.
“I never got knocked out, was conscious the whole time, just a little foggy,” he said after Wednesday’s practice, at which he was limited, according to the Browns’ official injury report – despite Shurmur’s opening remarks that he would do everything. “Obviously, the league’s taking these things pretty seriously. You have to go through the mandated steps. I passed all those. I’m ready to rock and roll.”
An iron man: Weeden left the field with 5:24 to go and a 20-14 lead over the Steelers. He was escorted to the locker room for the concussion test.
“It was so frustrating I stayed in my uniform and watched it on TV and begged the doctors to just go out on the sidelines just to experience it,” Weeden said. “They wouldn’t let me. I was disappointed about it. I wanted to finish it.”
Weeden said it was his first concussion in football, and also the first time he has left a game because of an injury.
“I played through a high ankle (at Oklahoma State) and ruptured a tendon in my thumb. It’s gonna take a lot to get me out of a game,” he said.
One of the reasons for drafting Weeden, besides his arm strength, was to field a more physical player at quarterback who could withstand the rigors of six games against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
Coincidentally, McCoy was knocked out by the Steelers in his last start for the Browns. The James Harrison helmet hit McCoy sustained, of course, was severely more damaging than the accidental one Weeden absorbed. After the controversial mishandling of the McCoy concussion, awareness about the head injury has multiplied and extra precautions are taking place league-wide and with the Browns.
“A lot of it’s out of my hands,” Weeden said. “But I think … it’s not like it’s an ankle or hand. It’s your brain and you’ve got to be smart. That was my first and foremost worry, make sure I’m 100 percent But it’s gonna be hard for me not to make that trip (to Oakland). I’m gonna be there and I’m gonna play.”
To the finish line: Weeden’s ability to stay on the field through a rigorous rookie season has aided his development. The six snaps at the end of the Pittsburgh game are the only ones he has missed.
Earlier in the season, Weeden was second among quarterbacks in pass attempts as too much was asked of him too soon. Now he’s ninth with 397 attempts. His 20 sacks – good for 10th in the league in lowest sack percentage -- are a favorable reflection on Weeden’s ability to release the ball in addition to his protection.
By this stage of the season, rookie quarterbacks typically can be knocked out or beaten up – the notable exceptions of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson notwithstanding.
The things for Weeden to improve upon over his final five games: completion percentage (55.9), touchdowns (12) and wins (three).
“I’ve gotten better,” he said. “Every game there’s gonna seem like I try to fit balls into tight windows. That’s how we draw them up and I’m trusting my guy to try to win. There’s a lot that goes into that. Overall, (I’m progressing) pretty well. I think my comfort level and understanding this offense, more than anything, has enabled me to progress.
“We’re still waiting to play a full four-quarter game. Coach (Mike) Gundy said at Oklahoma State, ‘You show me a perfect game of football, call me Jesus.’ We know we haven’t done that all year. We realize there’s an issue there. We’ve got to dig deeper.”
It’s not been perfect for Weeden. But he has taken Pittsburgh’s best shot, emerged with a win, and lived to play on. As owner Jimmy Haslam said in the locker room after the game, “It’s a start.”
|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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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