Browns coach Rob Chudzinski formally named Tashaun Gipson the team’s starting free safety this morning during a news conference.
Gipson missed part of training camp with a sprained shoulder, but held off challengers Johnson Bademosi and rookie Jamoris Slaughter to secure the top spot on the depth chart.
“It was definitely a grind, a battle coming into camp,” Gipson said. “This is what I set my goals for and I’m just blessed that coach Chud and the coaching staff gave me that title and instilled that trust in me.
“My mindset is not going to change just ‘cause I am the starter. It doesn’t mean I’m going to relax on my craft. I’m going to continue to try to get better each day. I’m going to continue to grind out there like I’m competing for my job.”
Gipson, who entered the NFL last year as an undrafted free agent, said he learned Chudzinski named him the starter when his “Twitter feed started blowing up.” Then a member of the media relations staff alerted him before reporters entered the locker room today.
Gipson and most of the other starters will play into the third quarter when the Browns visit the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday in the third preseason game, Chudzinski said.
Starting strong safety T.J. Ward (hamstring) has not played in the Browns’ first two exhibition games, so Chudzinski is eager to see him paired with Gipson in live action.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing that,” Chudzinski said. “T.J. had a good day of practice yesterday. We’ve been cautious with it but he’s looking full speed and everything seems to be a go. So we’ll determine that later in the week, but I am looking forward to seeing those two guys working together, and they have a lot in practice. So it’s not like it’s going to be something that’s foreign once they get out on the field in a game. But you still like to always see them together in a game.”
Top fullback solidified
Chudzinski also gave Chris Ogbonnaya the nod as the team’s No. 1 fullback.
With Dion Lewis (fractured fibula) expected to be out for the season and Montario Hardesty (arthroscopic knee surgery) set to miss the beginning of the regular season, Ogbonnaya will also play some tailback to spell starter Trent Richardson.
“From a fullback standpoint, a tailback standpoint, we put Chris on the depth chart as a first teamer,” Chudzinski said. “I think he’s a role player that is a first teamer in many situations.”
Richardson, the third overall pick in last year’s draft, will be one of the starters who won’t play into the third quarter against the Colts, Chudzinski said.
Wide receiver Josh Gordon will start against the Colts, even though the NFL suspended him for the first two regular-season games because he violated its substance-abuse policy.
Chudzinski said it has yet to be determined whether wide receiver David Nelson (bone bruise in right knee) will play against the Colts.
Chudzinski said he hasn’t decided whether his starters will play in the preseason finale Aug. 29 on the road against the Chicago Bears.
“I have not [decided],” Chudzinski said. “It’s yet to be determined, and we’ll base it on where we’re at after this week.”
Chudzinski said he still doesn’t know when rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung) will be cleared to return to action. He has been ruled out against the Colts.
“I don’t have any update other than he’s improved,” Chudzinski said. “The timeline, nobody really knows exactly. It’s just a matter of how quickly his body heals.”
Mingo said he has not spit up blood or experienced shortness of breath since Thursday night, when he believes he suffered the bruised lung against the Detroit Lions. Mingo also said he had never experienced those symptoms before.
“Everything is feeling good,” said Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year's draft. “Everyone is happy with the progress, and now we're just waiting to see what the doctors say so we can get back.”
Mingo said he has done some running.
“A little, but they [the doctors] really don't want me to,” Mingo said.
Mingo still believes he suffered the injury during the opening kickoff against the Lions, but he doesn’t think he took a big hit during the game.
“I was still fine after the game,” Mingo said. “It's just freakish.”
Cornerback Trevin Wade (sprained AC joint in right shoulder) said he doesn't know exactly how long he'll be out, but he’s confident he'll be fine.
“In college, I broke a rib and my collarbone,” Wade said. “I came back early from that and played. Easy. No problem.
“I’ve been playing well recently and getting better every day. It’s just part of the game, but you just come back and pick up where you left off.”
Chudzinski said the Browns will rest wide receiver Davone Bess today during practice, and defensive end Desmond Bryant (back spasms) will continue to sit out.
Back in town
Defensive end Brian Sanford is glad to be back with the Browns after they traded him to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for guard John Moffitt on Monday and then voided the deal Tuesday because they were concerned about Moffitt’s health.
Sanford said he left Cleveland on Monday night, took a physical in Seattle for four or five hours Tuesday and returned to Cleveland at 6:30 a.m. today.
“I’m happy I’m still here,” Sanford said. “I don’t know how it really works. I’ve never been through a trade, but it’s just an opportunity. I’ve been going for three years, and I’m trying to stay here. I love the Browns. I don’t want to leave this locker. I just want to play football.”
Chudzinski said welcoming Sanford back wasn’t awkward.
“Not at all,” Chudzinski said. “He left here on good terms. We had a great conversation before he left. The last thing that I talked about is, 'You never know in this league how things end up working out and where we might cross paths again.' And it happened a little bit sooner than what we had expected, and we were just actually laughing about it when I saw him and got a chance to talk to him.”
After the Browns’ deal was voided, the Seahawks traded Moffitt to the Denver Broncos.
“Every organization’s different,” Chudzinski said. “Out of respect for any player in this situation, I’m not going to get into any details about that.”
With the trade canceled, the Browns are back in the market for a guard because Shawn Lauvao (high ankle sprain and arthroscopic ankle surgery) and Jason Pinkston (high ankle sprain) will miss time early in the regular season. Rookie Garrett Gilkey, a seventh-round pick, is penciled in as the starting right guard, at least for now.
“This is the time of year when you’re looking for everything,” Chudzinski said. “So our scouting department is burning the midnight oil, looking around at all positions.”