BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Josh McCown’s playing status for Sunday’s home opener against Tennessee is unclear. Once again, Cleveland’s quarterback situation is as blurry as ever.
McCown is following the NFL’s protocol on head injuries after sustaining a concussion on a daring – some would call it foolish- run in the first quarter of Sunday’s 31-10 loss to the New York Jets. It may be several days before the team knows if McCown can play face the Titans, and until then the Browns will prepare backup Johnny Manziel to start.
McCown, who took a helmet-to-helmet blow from linebacker Demario Davis while trying to dive into the end zone, was evaluated Monday at the team’s facility. Coach Mike Pettine said McCown watched film and attended meetings, perhaps a sign his injury may not be as severe.
Pettine said Manziel, who threw his first career touchdown pass Sunday but also had three turnovers, will take the snaps with Cleveland’s starting offense in practice as McCown waits to be cleared.
“It’s an ideal situation that Josh would be back at the end of the week, but we have to plan otherwise that he won’t be available at least early for practice,” Pettine said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”
McCown became the 23rd starting quarterback for Cleveland since 1999, but he didn’t make it through his first drive.
On third-and-14 at New York’s 14, the 36-year-old McCown dropped back and, unable to spot any open receivers, took off toward the end zone. He launched himself at the 3 trying to score, was hit by two defenders, fumbled and did a 360-degree spin in the air before crashing hard onto the turf.
Pettine didn’t fault McCown’s effort. The Browns know the veteran is ultra-competitive, but do wish he would be a little more careful and slide.
“How do you tell him different?” Pettine said. “You’re talking about a guy that was instinct for him to do that. But you’re that close to the end zone, if he had hung onto the ball and not gotten helicoptered in and landed and we had won the game, we’re carrying him off the field – in a good way.”
Pettine said it’s easy to second-guess McCown’s decision, but hard to fault him for trying to get the Browns an early lead.
“That would be real difficult to try to coach out of him, say, ‘Hey, listen, don’t risk yourself,'” Pettine said. “I think he just in his mind it was the situation, ‘Hey I’ve got a chance to score a touchdown here. It’s third down.’ If it’s second down, my guess is that he would’ve slid.”
Manziel had some positive moments in his relief appearance, showing continued growth following his rough rookie season.
Despite not getting any reps with Cleveland’s starters, Manziel, who has been slowed by a sore right elbow, finished 13 of 24 for 182 yards. He got sacked three times, threw a costly pick and fumbled twice while trying to scramble. The former Heisman Trophy winner made a couple good throws from the pocket, and gained a team-high 35 yards on five carries.
Pettine thought Manziel did a good job of taking what the defense gave him, but felt the young QB took an “unnecessary hit, especially in light of that Josh was already down for the game” on one run.
Overall, Cleveland’s opener couldn’t have gone much worse.
The Browns committed 12 penalties, committed five turnovers, got just 46 yards on 20 carries by their running backs and lost their 11th straight season opener.
“We can’t get no worse,” said cornerback Tramon Williams, who spent the past nine seasons in Green Bay. “Five turnovers, you’re going to lose 100 out of 100 games. Every time we made plays, we got penalties. It was just bad football.”
NOTES: Pettine called the road-rage incident involving CB Justin Gilbert “troubling.” Gilbert was not injured when he crashed his car into a ditch following a confrontation with a 55-year-old man on Friday. Gilbert, who was ticketed by police, traveled to Sunday’s game but was inactive because of a hip injury. Pettine did not say if Gilbert will be disciplined by the team. … WR Dwayne Bowe was not active after he suffered “a setback” from a hamstring injury last week. The team signed Bowe a two-year contract with $9 million guaranteed. “We want him out there and we want him to be a big part of what we’re trying to get done,” Pettine said.