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Browns preparing to play Steelers with Thad Lewis and Josh Johnson their only two healthy quarterbacks

Dec 26, 2012 -- 12:26pm

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By Tony Grossi

Extra Points …

Here we go Brownies, here we go: The Browns’ work week for the season finale in Pittsburgh began with Thad Lewis taking all the reps at quarterback with the first team.

Uh, boy.

The backup quarterback was Josh Johnson.

THE Josh Johnson? Yes, the one who has been out of the NFL all year and played a few games in the fall for Sacramento in the dying United Football League.

Johnson, a mobile thrower-runner, was released on Aug. 31 by San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, who coached Johnson at the University of San Diego. Johnson previously spent four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2008.

The Browns also placed safety Usama Young on injured reserve. He’ll need surgery on a thumb.

Also sitting out practice on Wednesday were quarterbacks Brandon Weeden (shoulder) and Colt McCoy (shoulder), running back Trent Richardson (ankle) and cornerback Sheldon Brown (concussion).

Neither Weeden nor McCoy were available in the locker room following practice.

What happened?: Weeden (left shoulder) and Richardson (left ankle) departed the Denver game not looking like they would play anytime soon. Still, coach Pat Shurmur maintained they have not been ruled out.

Shurmur said McCoy reported to work after the game complaining of a sore right shoulder and is receiving treatment. McCoy was brutalized by the Broncos in the final moments of the Denver game. He said after the game he threw the ball into the ground short of receivers a couple times to avoid “getting knocked out.”

The Pittsburgh game figured to be McCoy’s first start as Browns quarterback since he suffered a severe concussion in the 2011 game in Pittsburgh on Dec. 8, 2011. That was when McCoy was taken out on a devastating helmet-to-helmet cheap shot by linebacker James Harrison. McCoy returned after two plays because Browns medical personnel were taxed by other player injuries and didn’t administer a concussion test on the sideline.

McCoy was not cleared to practice the rest of the season and missed the final three games. When his head cleared, the Browns were actively looking for a new quarterback.

The more things change … : Sunday marks the sixth time in 14 years of the expansion era that the Browns season will end against the Steelers. They have lost all five of the previous meetings, one of which was an AFC wild-card playoff game in Pittsburgh.

The others closed out the regular season. The last two came in Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Lewis spent the season partly as the No. 3 quarterback and partly as a practice squad player. Even when he has been on the full roster, his reps have been so limited that he often was used at other positions of need on the scout team. He has never appeared in an NFL regular-season game.

Asked if he considered the possible start an opportunity -- or something worse -- Lewis said, “Always an opportunity. When your number’s called, it’s an opportunity. You have to take adfvantage. If this is my one opportunity, I have to make sure I’m ready, and give it my all.”

And so, this finale reeks of the 2008 season-ender. That year, the Browns lost three quarterbacks to injuries in the first 15 games – Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn and Ken Dorsey.

They suited up out-of-work Bruce Gradkowski to play out the final game. Gradkowksi proceeded to post a 1.0 passer rating on 5 of 16 passing for 18 yards. The Browns lost, 31-0, and the Phil Savage-Romeo Crennel era came atumblin’ down the next day.

Now it appears the Tom Heckert-Shurmur era will suffer a similar ending.

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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