By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Quarterback Brandon Weeden can’t even step onto the field at FirstEnergy Stadium anymore without being booed by Browns fans, so keeping a positive mindset might be the greatest challenge he’s facing.
Weeden will return to the starting lineup Sunday when the Browns (4-7) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) because Jason Campbell is still recovering from a concussion he suffered this past weekend in a 27-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Rob Chudzinski announced Wednesday during a news conference.
Campbell hasn’t been ruled out yet, though Chudzinski said “it’s doubtful” he’ll be active. At this point, the organization is not considering placing Campbell on injured reserve, Chudzinski said.
The Browns signed Alex Tanney off the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad after he passed a physical. He practiced Wednesday and will likely serve as Weeden’s backup this weekend, a task for which Tanney said he’ll be ready.
Meanwhile, Weeden will try to rebound psychologically. The home crowd unleashed its rage and booed when he entered the action for one play in the second quarter because Campbell aggravated his bruised ribs and again in the third quarter after Campbell was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
“I’ve been through a lot,” Weeden said. “I’d like to think I’m mature enough to handle all that stuff, but I learned a long time ago you can only control so much. Before I even throw a pass, I still get booed. You have to laugh it off and use that as positive reinforcement, use it as ammo to go out and play well.”
Regardless of how fans react to Weeden, Chudzinski said the team is rallying behind him.
“The most important thing is I know that he has the backing of his teammates,” Chudzinski said. “The type of guys that we have in the locker room, their support for him, they want to win, and everybody realizes that Brandon needs to play well. He’s really kept his head into it. He’s been a professional through it all.”
What level of confidence do the other players have in Weeden?
“He’s going to do what he can do,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “He’s going to get the first-string reps. He’s going to practice with the starters. He’s going to be able to study Jacksonville, and he’s going to be able to go into the game like he’s starting. That definitely helps a whole lot.”
Weeden insisted he tunes out the booing. He said he believes it actually bothers his teammates more than it bothers him.
“It’s pretty simple for me — I don’t listen to outside noise,” Weeden said. “[I’ve] gotten rid of Twitter and all that junk. I don’t need 5-year-old kids telling me how to play the quarterback position, so it’s made it really easy. It hasn’t been an issue. I’ve got great support in this locker room, great support from family and friends back home. My wife has been remarkable, so it’s not a distraction for me. It’s the farthest thing from a distraction for me. I don’t get tied up in it. My main focus is getting better. I’ve only played 20 games in this league, and I’ve got a long ways to go to continue to get better.”
Weeden, 30, might need to improve somewhere else. Drafted 22nd overall last year by the previous regime, he is 0-4 as a starter this season and 5-14 in his career. Chudzinski benched him a month ago in favor of Campbell after consecutive poor performances against the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.
Following the demotion, Weeden insisted he wanted to stay with the Browns. On Wednesday, he sounded as if he has read the writing on the wall that suggests his days in Cleveland are numbered.
“I think for the next five weeks, I’m a Cleveland Brown,” said Weeden, who has completed 117-of-227 passes this season for 1,361 yards and six touchdowns with seven interceptions. “After that, whatever happens is out of my control. I’m excited. This is one of the best teams I’ve ever been on as far as just the group of guys in this locker room, the atmosphere we have going on, the friendships we have and the camaraderie. It’s great. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it as long as I’m here, and then if they tell me to beat it, then we’ll see. Right now, my main focus is the Cleveland Browns and winning this Sunday.”
Weeden embraces the opportunity to prove he can learn from past mistakes and improve. Despite his passer rating of 66 and completion percentage of 51.5 ranking among the worst in the NFL, he insists he hasn’t lost confidence.
“I’ve never been through this circumstance and situation before,” Weeden said. “I’ve got a lot of people around me and there for me, and I think people around me are feeling worse. Like I tell them all the time, ‘Listen, I have to fight through this and see what kind of man I am and see what kind of person I am to persevere throughout a lot of this adversity.’ It won’t be the last time.”
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 www.facebook.com/browns.abj.