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Browns training camp: News, notes and observations from practice

By Nate Ulrich Published: August 13, 2012

The Browns held their 13th full-squad practice of training camp today. Here are some highlights from practice and subsequent interviews:

More from starters

Browns coach Pat Shurmur said the team’s starters will play at least a half Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers, and they might stay in the game for part of the third quarter.

“The guys that line up this week with the first group, we’ll try to get them about a half of play,” Shurmur said. “And then we’ll see and evaluate from there at halftime. They may play a little more. They may not. So we’ll just have to see. I’m gonna keep that open.”

Shurmur is treating the Browns’ second preseason game at Lambeau Field like a dress rehearsal, which is usually designated for the third exhibition game. The Browns won’t use the third preseason game as their dress rehearsal because it’s against the Philadelphia Eagles, who will visit Cleveland for the regular-season opener on Sept. 9. Obviously neither team wants to show its cards to the other before Week 1.

But even though Shurmur wants to see more from his starters Thursday, the team’s long list of injuries will be an obstacle. Fifteen players did not practice today because of injuries. Eight of them are projected starters. Some of those who were sidelined still have a chance of playing against the Packers, Shurmur said.

“Some of the guys that aren’t out here are guys have played in the league a long time,” Shurmur said. “They’ve been through these little gaps where they’ve had injuries, so to speak. The ones I’m more concerned about that missed practice time are the young ones, the guys that need to develop. So if there’s a level of concern, that’s where it goes to – the guys that really need to practice because they’re going through this process for the first or second time.”

Injury update

Rookie running back Trent Richardson has been rehabilitating at the Browns’ headquarters, Shurmur said. Richardson had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last Thursday.

“Trent’s here and he’s getting better,” Shurmur said. “When he’s ready, he’ll be out. But he’s here. He’s here all day long doing his thing trying to get healthy.”

Shurmur is hopeful Richardson can return by the start of the regular season. But Shurmur said he had no further update on a timetable for when Richardson is expected to be back.

In addition to Richardson, the following players were sidelined today: wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (concussion), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (right ankle), strong safety Usama Young (reported hamstring), fullback Eddie Williams (undisclosed), weakside linebacker Chris Gocong (out for the season with a torn right Achilles tendon), middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (reported shoulder soreness), defensive end Marcus Benard (undisclosed), defensive tackle Scott Paxson (right knee), wide receiver Travis Benjamin (Shurmur cited soreness), tight end Benjamin Watson (undisclosed), tight end Jordan Cameron (back), defensive end Frostee Rucker (iced his right knee today and wore a brace), defensive tackle Phil Taylor (pectoral surgery in May) and strongside linebacker Scott Fujita (wore a sleeve on his left leg today).

Standing out

For the second day in a row, undrafted rookie L.J. Fort filled in at middle linebacker for the first-team defense while Jackson sat out.

“It’s definitely a great experience coming in as a rookie and getting a chance just to even practice with the ones,” Fort said. “It’s pretty sweet.”

The 6-foot, 230-pound Fort intercepted a pass from quarterback Colt McCoy at the goal line to end the Browns’ final 11-on-11 drill.

“I think he’s had an excellent camp,” Shurmur said. “When we left in June, I was looking forward to him playing well in training camp because as I’ve said before, when linebackers put their pads on, then they start to separate. I think when he started wearing his pads and playing the game for real, he showed me more. He did a good job in his scrimmage snaps. He also did an outstanding job on special teams. As you saw today, he ended the drill with an interception.

“I think he’s got very good instincts. He’s got the right size, the skill and ability to play the position, kind of a powerful build. And again, you have to have good instincts to be a linebacker and play three downs.”

When Jackson was sidelined against the Lions, Benjamin Jacobs started in his place. Fort is in line to be summoned against the Packers.

“That’s gonna be so insane just to be able to line up against the Packers’ first string,” Fort said. “There’s not really any time to try to think about it. I’m thrown in the fire. I’m just gonna have to step up right then. I’ve been watching film on them. It’s just exciting even watching film. It just gets my adrenaline going. I think I’m ready to step up for the challenge.”

Other players who filled in for injured teammates and practiced with the starters during team drills are tight end Alex Smith (Watson and Cameron), rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon (Massaquoi), rookie defensive tackle John Hughes (Taylor and Paxson), defensive end Emmanuel Stephens (Rucker), rookie strongside linebacker James-Michael Johnson (Fujita), running back Montario Hardesty (Richardson) and rookie Trevin Wade (replaced first-team nickel cornerback Patterson).

In the booth

Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron plans to call plays from a booth in the press box all season, Shurmur said. Jauron did so Friday against the Lions. He called plays from the sideline last season.

When asked why Jauron is making the change, Shurmur said, “He wants to be. He’s called the defense from both down and up, and there’s nothing other than he’d like to do it from upstairs.”

Jauron calls the plays into defensive backs coach Tim Hauck. Then Hauck relays the calls to the players on the field.

Extra points

Stephens and tight end Evan Moore grappled following a play during an 11-on-11 session. … Safety Ray Ventrone broke up a pass McCoy intended for undrafted rookie wide receiver Josh Cooper during an 11-on-11 drill. … Free safety Eric Hagg broke up a pass from quarterback Seneca Wallace to undrafted rookie wide receiver Jermaine Saffold. … With Massaquoi sidelined, the Browns used Josh Cribbs, Greg Little (slot) and Gordon in three-receiver sets. Cribbs leaped catch a pass from Weeden during a 7-on-7 drill. … Saffold and wide receiver Rod Windsor dropped passes from McCoy in 7-on-7 action. … In a 7-on-7 drill, Cooper ran post route and grabbed a deep pass from Wallace between the coverage of undrafted rookie defensive backs Tashaun Gipson and Antwuan Reed. … Cooper made a nice adjustment to catch a low pass from Weeden over the middle during an 11-on-11 session. … Defensive end Austin English jumped offside in a team drill.

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