BEREA: Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin fully participated in practice Monday afternoon for the first time since the Browns opened training camp on July 27, and he believes he’ll be ready to play Friday in the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll probably be in the game Friday,” Rubin said Monday after practice. “I don’t feel [any] limitations. I don’t feel bad or nothing like that. I feel 100 percent, so I’m ready to go.”
Rubin declined to specify the nature of the injury that sidelined him during the beginning of camp. Two weeks ago, the Plain Dealer reported he had surgery to repair a slightly torn pelvic muscle.
He was relieved to be back. With fellow starting defensive tackle Phil Taylor sidelined until at least late October with a torn pectoral muscle, Rubin knew his return was vital for a defense that ranked 30th against the run (147.4 yards allowed per game) last season.
“I just wanted to come out and show my guys that I support them, I’m here and I want to be out there and put a good step forward to make something happen this year and try to be the leader on the D-line,” said Rubin, who had 83 tackles and five sacks last season. … “We’ve got a long way to go. I think last year we were probably one of the worst at run stopping, so that’s one of the things we’re trying to really focus on this year is run stopping and improve in that aspect.”
Rubin has tried to lead by example. Even when he sat out with the injury, he ran sprints at the end of every practice by himself.
“That was just one of my strong points last year — running to the ball,” Rubin said. “I just wanted to make sure my conditioning was up and make sure I can still perform at that level.”
The Browns need the 6-foot-2, 330-pound Rubin to be at his best this year because the defense is already short-handed. Taylor is hurt, and starting weakside linebacker Chris Gocong is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
“I don’t have no worries or no doubts at all,” Rubin said. “It’s on us as players to execute. So at the end of the day, it’s on us.
“I really want to win a lot of games to try to get into the playoffs this year and show a lot of people that have been doubting us that we are a good team and we’re really trying to make a difference this year.”
Starting strongside linebacker Scott Fujita’s fight against his three-game suspension for his alleged role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal is scheduled to take center stage again on Friday.
Fujita has repeatedly denied the league’s accusation that he contributed money to a pool that paid players for intentionally hurting opponents when he played for the Saints during the 2009 season. The NFL Players Association has sued the NFL on behalf of Fujita, and the two sides are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan on Friday. The court has ordered the parties to engage in settlement discussions.
Fujita remains optimistic his suspension could be overturned.
“It remains an ongoing process like I’ve said from the very beginning,” Fujita said Monday. “There are going to be ups and downs throughout the entire thing, and there’s going to be lots going on behind the scenes. I have to stay the course and hope for the best.”
Meanwhile, ESPN reported Monday that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma received an offer from the NFL that would reduce his season-long suspension stemming from the bounty matter to eight games on the condition that he drop his defamation lawsuit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In a statement, league spokesman Greg Aiello described the report as “completely inaccurate.”
In the first practice since Gocong suffered his season-ending injury on Saturday, Kaluka Maiava filled his spot with the first-team defense. Maiava is also listed as the No. 1 weakside linebacker on the Browns’ depth chart, which was released Monday night.
“He stepped in and played last year,” Shurmur said of Maiava, who started six games last season when Fujita was hurt. “He’s very quick. He’s very instinctive. He brings to the defense all those things that make him a good special-teams player. He’s a good tackler, he’s quick and he’s good in coverage. I think he’ll be able to fill in and do a good job.”
Shurmur said the Browns changed the start of today’s practice from the morning to 2 p.m., so he and other members of the organization can attend the funeral of Garrett Reid, the 29-year-old son of Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid. Shurmur, General Manager Tom Heckert, President Mike Holmgren and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron have all worked with Reid and knew his oldest son.
“It’s hard to even think about what Andy and [his wife], Tammy, and the family are going through losing a child,” Shurmur said. “I can’t even imagine. As a father, it’s got to be tough.”
Like Rubin, tight end Evan Moore fully participated in practice for the first time since camp started. He had an undisclosed injury. ... Rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz will start against the Lions, and Josh Gordon will be one of the receivers who rotates in with the first unit Friday, Shurmur said. … For the first time, the Browns wore a Ford logo on the front left shoulder of their practice jerseys on Monday. The sponsorship deal was in place before Jimmy Haslam III struck a deal to buy the team from Randy Lerner, a team spokesman said. … With the NFL’s officials locked out, replacement referees worked at the Browns’ practice Monday. They’ll continue to do so today and Wednesday during Family Night at Cleveland Browns Stadium. … Former Green Bay Packers General Manager Ron Wolf attended practice Monday.
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.