BEREA: With Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden’s status uncertain for Sunday’s season finale at Pittsburgh with what initially was diagnosed as a sprained right shoulder, the stage seems set for Colt McCoy to return to the scene of his 2011 concussion that sparked changes in the way the NFL handles head injuries.
But Browns coach Pat Shurmur didn’t rule out Weeden or running back Trent Richardson, who suffered a left ankle injury on the second-to-last offensive play of a 34-12 loss Sunday at Denver.
The Browns (5-10) will try to sweep the Steelers (7-8) for the first time since 1988.
“We’re still evaluating those injuries,” Shurmur said Monday. “In the case of Trent, X-rays didn’t show a break, but we haven’t finished up the evaluation. He was actually feeling better today. So we’ll see how that goes. Brandon ... at this point it’s a sprain, so we’ll see where that goes.
“Either one of ’em, no, I wouldn’t rule them out yet.”
The Browns, though, elevated third-string quarterback Thaddeus Lewis from their practice squad to their active roster. He would serve as McCoy’s backup if Weeden sits out against the Steelers.
To make room for Lewis on the 53-man roster, the Browns placed wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi on injured reserve. Massaquoi, a second-round draft pick in 2009, appeared on the injury report last week with an injured knee and was inactive Sunday. Massaquoi’s contract expires in March, meaning his career with the Browns might be over. He compiled 17 catches for 254 yards and started five of the nine games in which he appeared this season.
Richardson has not missed a game despite suffering a rib injury Oct. 14 against the Bengals that he said was more serious than people thought. For the Broncos, he was listed as probable with chest, rib and finger injuries. In high school, Richardson underwent surgery on both ankles to have screws inserted.
With 53 yards on nine carries in Denver, Richardson increased his season total to 950 rushing yards, breaking Jim Brown’s franchise record for rookies. The previous week against Washington, he scored his 10th and 11th rushing touchdowns, shattering another rookie mark held by Brown.
Richardson was hurt Sunday when blitzing ex-Browns safety Mike Adams drove McCoy into the ground and McCoy fell on him.
Richardson left Sports Authority Field in a walking boot, but told reporters the ankle was not broken.
Asked why he would risk further problems for Richardson, Shurmur said: “I think it’s important if guys are physically able to play, they play. That’s the competitive nature of this game.”
Shurmur repeatedly was questioned on why he was calling pass plays in the final series, a decision that left players angry in the locker room afterward.
“So you just run the ball and get out of there, warm up the buses? Is that what ...?” Shurmur said. “We’re trying to do what we can to move the football. At that time it was a three-score game. So typically that means throw it.
“You don’t want anybody to get hurt. Nobody wants to be hurt in a game like that. But I think it’s important to try to do what we have to do to win the game.”
The Browns were already without Weeden, lost with 3:59 left in the third quarter after being sacked by outside linebacker Von Miller. McCoy was running for his life from Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
“I get it. What are we going to do, stop playing? You know what I’m saying?” Shurmur said. “You could run the ball, but then your running backs get hurt as well.”
Asked about putting his players in harm’s way in an obvious passing situation, Shurmur said: “I know. I know. I understand where you’re going with all this, but I don’t want any of our guys to get hurt. Anybody on the field is exposed to injury. That’s the reality of this business, unfortunately.”
Weeden completed 12-of-19 passes for 104 yards and a 77.5 rating. If his season is over, he finished with a 72.6 rating, completing 57.4 percent of his passes for 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns with 17 interceptions.
“I thought he was playing a pretty efficient game,” Shurmur said of Weeden. “He was getting rid of the football against a pretty good rush. When he got hit, it was actually a hot throw. We’ve got to get rid of the football there. They forced us where they brought one extra [rusher]. But for the most part I thought he was pretty good with his throws.”
McCoy hadn’t thrown a pass all year and entered the game with the Browns trailing 21-6. McCoy completed 7-of-19 for 79 yards and a TD that capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive. He finished with an 85.2 rating but was sacked four times.
“I think Colt battled,” Shurmur said. “It’s a difficult situation when you go into a game as a backup, especially at the end of the game where you’re trying to play fast and you’re in the two-minute drill.”
A third-round pick in 2010, McCoy carries a 6-15 record as a starter. His 2011 season ended on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison on Dec. 8. McCoy continued playing despite suffering a concussion, prompting an angry, public reaction from his father, Brad. The league’s concussion protocols were changed in the aftermath.
After the game Sunday, McCoy said it took him a couple of series to get used to being back in the pocket, because he hadn’t had many practice reps.
“A couple times I just threw the ball in the dirt to let those guys rest,” McCoy said. “We were throwing the ball down the field and those guys were tired.”
Shurmur said he hadn’t seen McCoy on Monday, but wasn’t aware of that remark.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Shurmur said. “It’s not bad to throw the ball away if it’s deemed necessary. I’ll have to get more information on those comments before I can comment.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj. Beacon Journal sports writer Nate Ulrich contributed to this report.