BEREA: When Browns coach Pat Shurmur was a student at Michigan State University, he detested one particular subject.
“I was a business major, but statistics was my least favorite class,” Shurmur said Monday during a news conference. “It was all the way across campus. I took it in the winter. I had to walk there, and I didn’t understand it.”
Still, it’s not difficult to comprehend the importance of avoiding a record of 0-3 to start the season. The Browns fell to 0-2 Sunday with a 34-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Buffalo Bills (1-1) visit Northeast Ohio in Week 3 looking to maintain the momentum from their dominant 35-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We need to do what we can to win this football game against a team that’s coming off a big victory,” Shurmur said. “And I’ve got a lot of respect for Buffalo because in my opinion they’ve done a lot of things to upgrade their roster in the last couple of years.”
The Browns also believe they have upgraded their talent in recent seasons. Nevertheless, they’re 0-2 for the seventh time since their rebirth in 1999. After starting 0-2, they have finished 2-14 (1999); 5-11 (2003); 4-12 (2006); 4-12 (2008); 5-11 (2009); and 5-11 (2010).
Since the playoffs expanded to 12 participants in 1990, 22-of-184 teams (12 percent) have qualified for the postseason after going 0-2, according to ESPN. In the past three seasons, 0-of-24 have made it.
Only three teams have gone 0-3 and earned a playoff berth since 1990. The Bills, coincidentally, were the most recent in 1998.
Coming off a 4-12 record last season, the Browns weren’t considered a playoff-caliber team heading into 2012. But the point is early losses foreshadow agony more often than turnarounds.
“We’ve got to find a way to win, and I think we will,” defensive end Frostee Rucker said. “We’ve just gotta keep chopping wood, and I think everyone in this locker room understands.”
The defense had five takeaways and the offense provided virtually no support in the Browns’ 17-16 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Against the Bengals, the offense bounced back with an encouraging outing, but the defense and special teams didn’t do their parts.
“Both games have been close, so we’re right there,” middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “We’ve just got to get over that hump, and once we figure out how to get over that hump. It’s like a snowball effect. It’s still early in the season, a lot of football to play, so we’re still upbeat about it.”
Sound familiar? Jackson acknowledged the company line has become repetitive, but he believes the Browns must remain optimistic if they hope to find a spark.
“My message is keep fighting, keep pushing forward because things could change in one week,” he said.
Tight end Alex Smith was taken to a Cincinnati area hospital Sunday after the game, released in the evening and driven back to Cleveland, his agent, Kevin Robinson, told the Beacon Journal. A Browns spokesman said Smith has a concussion and his status is day-to-day.
Smith left the game after catching a 3-yard pass from rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden with 9:57 left in the fourth quarter. He walked into the locker room with members of the team’s medical staff a few minutes later.
Rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn also suffered a concussion, and defensive end Juqua Parker sprained a foot, Shurmur said.
Cornerback Sheldon Brown did not start like he normally does because he is still dealing with the effects of the neck stinger he suffered while making a tackle in Week 1, Shurmur said. Brown entered the game for one of the defense’s 69 plays, extending his streak of consecutive regular-season games played to 162.
“He was limited throughout the week,” Shurmur said of Brown. “I’ve been with Sheldon a long time, and I’m a big Sheldon Brown fan. And I’m his coach and so I think his role will change as it goes along, and there’s a good chance you’ll see him in there more this week. But he was banged up through the week last week, and I don’t think that’s going to be an issue as we move forward.”
Buster Skrine started in Brown’s place. Dimitri Patterson started for Joe Haden, who sat out the first of four games because of his suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Rookie Trevin Wade served as the nickel corner.
“With Joe out, we’re going to look at all options to make sure we play the right combination of guys,” Shurmur said.
Jim Brown to return
Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown is set to attend the upcoming Alumni Weekend, a team spokesman said. Brown is expected to be present at an alumni golf outing Friday, a dinner Saturday night and the game Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Former defensive back Clarence Scott and former running back Ernie Green will be inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends and honored during a halftime ceremony.
Strongside linebacker Scott Fujita is expected to discuss the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today. An appeals panel lifted Fujita’s three-game suspension for his alleged role in the scandal on Sept. 7, and he made his 2012 regular-season debut Sunday. … With starter Trent Richardson and backups Chris Ogbonnaya, Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty healthy, the Browns have a crowded stable of running backs. But Shurmur said he thinks they can keep all four on the roster. … Shurmur said the team tracks missed tackles, but he wouldn’t disclose the number tallied Sunday. “That’s a teaching aide for us,” Shurmur said. … Trailing by 10 points with 24 seconds left on fourth-and-6 from the Bengals’ 7-yard line, Shurmur elected to try a field goal. Shurmur said he won’t be convinced he should have gone for a touchdown instead. “Somebody would have had to grab me by the neck and tackle me,” he said.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.6