BEREA: D’Qwell Jackson, the heart and soul of the Browns’ defense, returned to the practice field Thursday afternoon after suffering a concussion late in the first half Sunday against the New York Giants.
Jackson said there’s no doubt he’ll play Sunday, when the Browns (0-5) host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-2). The Browns desperately need their defensive captain who ranks second on the team in tackles (30), first in sacks (three) and co-leads in interceptions (two).
“I’m going,” Jackson said. “I’m full-go. I have passed all the tests, and I’m rested and I feel fine. The first 5-10 minutes was cloudy, but then I was back to normal. No setbacks at this point.”
Jackson said it’s his first documented concussion.
“I got sandwiched between two O-linemen,” he said. “I felt a big blow to my head, and from that point on I could hear everything around me, but I couldn’t put it all together.”
Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 135 yards after Jackson was sidelined and replaced by undrafted rookie linebacker L.J. Fort. Bradshaw finished with 30 carries for a career-high 200 yards, helping the Giants roll to a 41-27 victory.
“Guys are used to seeing me out there,” Jackson said. “To plug in L.J., it’s a different body at a different position. It takes awhile for that to really jell. I thought those guys played hard for the most part, but we have to play assignment football all the time.”
Watching the second half on TV proved to be frustrating for Jackson, though he knew his health had to be the top priority.
“It’s about my head and taking care of my head,” Jackson said. “That’s the bigger issue. When it comes to that, it’s not about football, it’s not about wins or losses, it’s about life after football. That’s the most important thing.”
The Browns are just glad to have Jackson back so soon.
“He’s one of the leaders not only on the defense, but the entire team — spiritual leader, an emotional leader, he leads by example,” strong safety T.J. Ward said. “He’s vocal. He’s the center of the defense, so I think it’s very important to have him back on the field.”
Starting defensive tackle Phil Taylor will be eligible to begin practicing next week, and coach Pat Shurmur indicated the 21st overall pick in last year’s draft is expected to do so.
“He looks great,” Shurmur said. “We’re hopeful he’ll be back soon. Let’s just say this: I think he’ll be right on schedule.”
The 6-foot-3, 335-pound Taylor has spent this season on the physically unable to perform list after suffering a torn left pectoral muscle May 10 while lifting weights. He had surgery six days later.
Taylor said he plans to meet with Shurmur and head athletic trainer Joe Sheehan before making a final decision about whether Taylor will practice.
“I think I’m ready, but I still want to play it safe,” Taylor said. “I’m still taking it a day at a time.”
Jackson, who tore both pectoral muscles in 2009 and 2010, warned Taylor not to rush into returning.
“Ever since he heard he had a chance to come back, he’s been working his tail off rehabbing,” Jackson said. “I think he’s ahead of schedule in my opinion. But it’s gonna be very important that he takes it slow ’cause you don’t want any setbacks.”
Taylor said he has been running and lifting as part of his rehabilitation.
“I feel good physically,” Taylor said. “No setbacks or anything like that, just working hard to get back out there.”
Once Taylor starts practicing, the Browns will have a 21-day window in which they must add him to their active roster or declare him done for the season. If all goes well, Taylor will provide a boost for a defense ranked 26th in the NFL against the run (142.4 yards allowed per game).
“Nobody wants to sit out, so it’s tough watching,” Taylor said. “But I know at the same time that we can get the job done, and we can turn things around.”
Last season, Taylor had 59 tackles, including four sacks, to go along with a forced fumble and a pass defensed. He led all rookie defensive linemen in tackles.
Promotion on horizon?
The Browns have not yet elevated undrafted rookie wide receiver Josh Cooper from the practice squad to their active roster, but his teammates expect it to happen soon.
Cooper said he doesn’t know whether he’ll be promoted but conceded that he has been working with the offense more this week at practice instead of the scout team.
“When I get the call, I’m ready to go out there,” Cooper said.
Such a move would make sense because the Browns have only three healthy receivers on their 53-man roster. Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), rookie Travis Benjamin (hamstring) and Jordan Norwood (on crutches and left foot in a walking boot) haven’t practiced this week.
If Cooper plays Sunday, he’ll aim to re-establish the connection with his former Oklahoma State teammate, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
“He knows where I’m going to be and knows I’ll be in the right spot for him,” Cooper said. “We work well together.”
Other injury updates
Starting strongside linebacker Scott Fujita (shoulder/neck) sat out practice Thursday. If Fujita can’t play Sunday, rookie James-Michael Johnson will assume his role.
Starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf) remained idle, too, so the Browns will probably start rookie defensive tackles John Hughes and Billy Winn on Sunday.
“We don’t really have any problems nor choices with John and Billy,” defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “They’ve played at a high level, and they’re getting better.”
Jauron listed Buster Skrine and rookie Trevin Wade as candidates to replace cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who said he’s out for a couple of weeks with a sprained left ankle, as the team’s top nickel corner.
Undrafted free safety Tashaun Gipson (knee) remained sidelined.
The Browns waived third-string quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. The team made the move so it could place cornerback Joe Haden, who returned from a four-game suspension Monday, back on its active roster.
Lewis was inactive in all five games this season. He completed 9-of-17 passes for 146 yards with one interception in the preseason.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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.