One of the most mystifying aspects of Sunday's 17-14 loss at Tampa Bay was the Browns' continued reluctance to rely on Jerome Harrison as their featured running back.
Even though Harrison was listed as the starter of the official post-game statistics, the Browns did not open in their base offense and Peyton Hillis was called on first, with quarterback Jake Delhomme throwing to him on first down and Hillis carrying for no gain on second down.
Harrison seemed to receive no reward after rushing for 561 yards in the final three games of 2009, the eighth-highest three-game total in NFL history and the most ever by a Brown.
Longing to get in a rhythm, Harrison relished three consecutive carries in the fourth quarter when the Browns were trying to hang on to a 14-10 lead, even though the attempts netted only three yards.
''It felt good,'' Harrison said of those three carries.
Harrison finished with a team-high 52 yards on nine carries and one reception for one yard. Hillis totalled 41 yards on nine attempts and a TD, but also lost a critical fumble early in the third quarter that doomed the Browns offense.
Denver coach Josh McDaniels saw no role for Hillis with the Broncos and traded him to the Browns for quarterback Brady Quinn on March 14.
It appears the loss of rookie running back Montario Hardesty with a torn ACL in the final preseason game was more of a blow than the Browns would let on. It would appear the Browns may have little choice but to commit to Harrison. Stay tuned.