Going into the season, it was assumed the Browns would be entering the easy part of their season this week against Jacksonville. In the next five games, they visit the Jaguars, host Carolina, visit Miami and Buffalo, then travel to Cincinnati.
But the rash of injuries suffered in Sunday's 26-20 loss to the New York Jets and playing 16 seconds shy of five quarters could make this weekend's trip to Jacksonville challenging.
Jaguars quarterback David Garrard is playing the best football of his life. The Jags will also be riding an amazing high, coming off the miraculous Hail Mary triumph over Houston.
The Browns have to worry about the availability of receiver/returner Joshua Cribbs (who reportedly dislocated four toes), outside linebacker Scott Fujita (likely out this week with a knee injury) and cornerback Sheldon Brown (neck/shoulder). Right guard Billy Yates was placed on injured reserve with a biceps injury, hurting the offensive line's depth.
But coach Eric Mangini must also be concerned about how some of his players will bounce back from a 75-minute marathon, especially 33-year old linebacker David Bowens, who took Fujita's spot.
Asked how tired he was in overtime, Bowens said, ''Everybody was tired at that point. Sometimes you get some boosts of confidence here and there. If somebody wanted to beat me up, right now's the time to do it.''
As Brown observed afterward, ''That was a championship fight.''
Mangini must be careful he doesn't wear his team out in practice this week before they get to Jacksonville.