By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Updated at 4:15 p.m.
Extra Points …
Wounded Rabbit: Punt returner extraordinaire Travis Benjamin is out for the year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Kansas City on Sunday. Surgery has not yet been scheduled, said coach Rob Chudzinski.
Benjamin suffered the injury while returning a punt in the third quarter. He appeared to twist the knee awkwardly while being tackled.
In his second season, Benjamin had turned in the longest three plays of the year for the Browns – an 86-yard kickoff return to set up a TD in Green Bay, a 79-yard punt return for a TD against Buffalo, and a 56-yard punt return to set up a field goal against Buffalo.
His 179 yards in punt returns against the Bills broke a team record held by Eric Metcalf. After that game, it came to light that Benjamin’s nickname on the team was “the Rabbit,” for his quickness and speed and also the fact he chased rabbits as a kid in Belle Glade, FL.
Benjamin ranked sixth in the NFL with a punt return average of 11.7 yards. He also averaged 21.0 yards on five receptions, including a long of 39 yards, and had a 45-yard gain on an end-around run.
“You saw the growth as a receiver as well as a returner,” Chudzinski said. “It’s a tough loss for us. We’ll have some guys step up.”
Chudzinski said that Benjamin will be replaced by Davone Bess as the primary punt returner.
Which brings up: A day later, Bess was still despondent about his fumbled punt in the fourth quarter in Kansas City. He fielded the short punt on the run at about mid-field and saw a big play unfolding. There was 7:02 to play and the Browns were behind, 20-17.
“Those plays can be game-changing plays,” Bess said Monday. “It was an opportunity, and I swung. Just got to focus on my fundamentals.”
Bess arrived after a swap of draft choices with Miami as a reliable, possession receiver who should improve the team’s third-down efficiency greatly. He averaged 64 catches a year in five seasons with the Dolphins.
Through eight games, he has 28 catches for 261 yards. Twelve of his receptions have been for first downs. But Bess’ nine drops are tops among NFL receivers, and he has caught only 51.9 percent of balls targeted for him, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
The Website ranks him 105th among 108 receivers rated. This is not the kind of year Bess or the Browns anticipated. Upon trading for him, the Browns rewarded Bess, 28, with a three-year contract extension with $5.7 million in guarantees.
“Absolutely not (has it gone the right way),” Bess said. “A lot of that is under my control. It’ll get fixed. Just got to keep working. That’s what life is all about.
“First time for everything. Another challenge. I’ve been through a lot tougher things in my life. Just another bump in the road.”
Chudzinski continued to voice support for Bess, echoing sentiments that streamed from the locker room after the game on Sunday.
“I think Davone is everything you could ask for in a guy working, doing the things to be the best he can,” the coach said. “He’s a pro’s pro. I have faith in him in that he’ll make the corrections. I know there’s some things from a technical standpoint (he can fix). And I think some of it is just trying to do too much.”
Bess said: “I appreciate the support. My teammates, they understand and they know my work ethic, just being a pro. They have faith in me that I’ll get back on track.”
Trade talk: Before the Kansas City game, a source told ESPNCleveland.com that a Browns trade before the NFL deadline of 4 p.m. Tuesday was “doubtful, but possible,” because teams were still calling the team about available players, notably receiver Josh Gordon.
In Kansas City, Gordon posted 132 yards on five catches, including a 39-yard touchdown. It was his third 100-yard receiving game in the six he has been active this season – the most by a Browns player since Braylon Edwards had three in 2008. (Edwards had four 100-yard games in 2007). All eight of Gordon’s career touchdowns have covered more than 20 yards.
On Monday, Chudzinski said, “We have no plans of trading any of our guys. We’re not shopping them. As far as any other personnel rumors, speculation, those things, I’m not going to get into them.”
Oh, by the way: Chudzinski officially named Jason Campbell the starting quarterback Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
|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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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