BEREA: Defensive lineman Frostee Rucker, the Browns’ main free-agent acquisition in the offseason, is hoping to debut with his new team in its preseason home opener Friday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Rucker returned to practice Aug. 17 after missing more than two weeks of action, including the Browns’ first two exhibition games, with an injured right knee. Rucker, who will play with a big brace on his knee, began participating in team drills again on Monday.
“I’m really anxious to finally get to run out of that tunnel this week,” Rucker said Wednesday after the final practice of training camp open to the public. “I hope [I’ll play Friday]. It’s gonna be a coach’s decision, but I’m putting myself in a position that he’s gonna be comfortable putting me in the game.”
“It’s been dreadful being on the sideline watching those guys compete and battle and not be out there in the huddle with those guys. It feels like I might finally get an opportunity to do it, and I should take full advantage of it.”
In March, the Browns signed Rucker to a five-year deal reportedly worth $21 million. The Browns were impressed with Rucker when they played the Cincinnati Bengals last season, and they target him as their starting right defensive end and a leader in the trenches.
“I thought he was a three-down defensive end,” Shurmur said. “He can stand in there against the run, but then I also feel as though he can still generate pass rush. We felt like when we got to know him that he would be a great teammate as well. I think he’s done a good job. He’s vocal, he’s obviously proven he can play in this league and he’s fighting to get back on the field on a consistent basis.”
Shurmur said “there’s a chance” Rucker will play Friday.
Proceeding with caution
The Browns are encouraged by the progress rookie running back Trent Richardson has made while rehabilitating from arthroscopic surgery he had on his left knee Aug. 9. They’re still hoping he can return in time for the regular-season opener against the Eagles on Sept. 9, but they’ll also play it safe.
“He’s right on schedule,” Browns President Mike Holmgren told SportsTime Ohio on Wednesday. “He starts running in the swimming pool this week, and he should be back on the field doing some things in a week. And then if it goes according to schedule and there are no setbacks, there is a chance — yeah, there’s a chance — he could be ready to play in the first game.
“Now we have to as a coaching staff and as an organization, you have to be really smart on how you do that. As much as we’d all love to see him play and are looking forward to him playing, we can’t rush him back in before he’s ready. But our medical and training staff are the best, and they’ll let us know.”
Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, has been working out at the team’s facility.
“I think he had to pay rent in the training room,” rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “He’s lived in there, which is good. That’s part of being a professional. He’s busting his tail in there to get ready. … He seems to be doing great, and he’s very optimistic that he’ll be back sooner rather than later.”
Other injury updates
Defensive end Emmanuel Stephens returned to practice after sitting out Tuesday with an injured left leg. He did not participate in team drills.
Defensive tackle John Hughes, who’s battling back from an undisclosed injury, participated in team drills, but he worked with the second-team defense. Fellow rookie Billy Winn took his spot with the first unit.
Meanwhile, the following 13 players were sidelined: Richardson (left knee), strongside linebacker Scott Fujita (wore brace on left knee Wednesday while watching practice), tight end Benjamin Watson (undisclosed), running back Chris Ogbonnaya (ankle), cornerback Antwuan Reed (left leg), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (right ankle), strong safety Usama Young (reported hamstring), strong safety Ray Ventrone (right hamstring), weakside linebacker Chris Gocong (had surgery Aug. 10 to repair torn right Achilles’ tendon and is out for the season), rookie linebacker Emmanuel Acho (undisclosed), defensive tackle Scott Paxson (right knee), offensive lineman Oniel Cousins (Shurmur cited soreness) and defensive tackle Phil Taylor (had surgery to repair torn pectoral muscle May 16 and is out at least until late October).
Fan favorite retires
Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin announced Wednesday that former Browns left guard Eric Steinbach has decided to retire. Steinbach played for the Browns from 2007-10 and started all but two games during that span. Last year, he suffered a back injury in camp that ultimately led to his release from the Browns in March and his retirement. He signed with the Dolphins on July 26.
“I really enjoyed playing alongside Eric,” Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said. “He had four great seasons here as a starter. Eric had an outstanding career, and I wish him and his family nothing but the best as he moves on to the next chapter of his life.”
Eagles starting quarterback Michael Vick suffered bruised ribs Monday against the New England Patriots, but he told reporters Wednesday he’ll definitely be ready to play when his team visits the Browns for the regular-season opener. In the meantime, rookie Nick Foles will start in Vick’s place Friday in the Eagles’ exhibition game in Cleveland. … Browns play-by-play man Jim Donovan plans to call the game Friday for WKYC after missing the Browns’ trip to Green Bay on Aug. 16 because he was ill. … The Browns said a total of 37,136 fans attended the 14 practices that were open to the public in Berea this summer. It’s an average of 2,653 fans per session.
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 at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.