By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant underwent a cardiac ablation Friday morning at the Cleveland Clinic to fix an irregular heartbeat, and the procedure went as expected, team spokesman Zak Gilbert said.
The procedure is used to destroy a small area of heart tissue that is causing rapid and irregular heartbeats, according to the American Heart Association. It typically involves inserting catheters through the groin to deliver radiofrequency energy that eliminates the disruptive tissue.
Gilbert said Bryant, who signed a five-year, $34 million contract with the Browns in March after spending the previous four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, is expected to make a full recovery.
The Browns placed Bryant on the reserve/non-football illness list Wednesday, ending his season. He reported symptoms Monday, the third known episode he has had since last year. He played 47-of-74 snaps Sunday in a 32-28 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and finished the game.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Bryant left the Browns’ win over the Buffalo Bills early in the third quarter Oct. 3 because he experienced an accelerated heartbeat and shortness of breath. He was hospitalized overnight before being released the next day. He also left the Raiders’ game Nov. 4, 2012, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with similar symptoms. He played the following week both times.
Bryant, who’ll turn 28 on Dec. 15, started all 12 games this season and compiled 45 tackles, including 3½ sacks. According to the Browns, he leads the team with 32 quarterback harassments, which combines pressures and hits.
“He’s been great from Day One,” inside linebacker and defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson said. “I didn’t know too much about Des before we signed him, and just being around him, he’s a calm, collected, cool guy, but when he’s out there on Sunday, he’s a powerful man. He’s able to play every block. He’s able to pass rush.
“It’s unfortunate that a heart issue came up. That’s first and foremost. I know he wants to be out there playing, but that’s something serious that a lot of us haven’t been around. The only folks I relate to heart conditions are my grandparents or someone a little bit older than that. You always have to be precautious when it comes to that. We’re going to miss him. We’re not going to be able to replace him.”
Coach Rob Chudzinski said Billy Winn, John Hughes and rookie Armonty Bryant will play more in Bryant’s absence, but he stopped short of naming a starter for Sunday when the Browns (4-8) will visit the New England Patriots (9-3).
“We’ve been rolling those guys a lot as the season’s gone on,” Chudzinski said. “Depending on the situation or packages, we’ll have different guys in there.”
Tight end Jordan Cameron got off to a scorching start this season, but he hasn’t scored a touchdown since Oct. 20, and he’s tallied 4, 29, 32 and 43 receiving yards in the past four games after eclipsing the 50-yard mark in seven of his first eight games.
“There’s some looks that defenses give you that kind of take away what you’re good at, some double coverage or some guys playing over the top and hitting you at the line of scrimmage,” said Cameron, who has 63 catches for 704 yards and six touchdowns this season. “There’s a lot of things they can do to limit your production. It opens things up for other guys, and when the plays are there, we’ve got to make them because they don’t come often, and the opportunities are not there all the time.”
With wide receiver Josh Gordon racking up 623 receiving yards in the past three games, Cameron suspects the Patriots will devote most of their attention to Gordon. That might create more opportunities for Cameron to produce.
“Whatever I can do, I’m going to try to do it,” Cameron said. “It’s not like I’m not trying as hard. It’s just the looks aren’t there. It’s just a matter of me trying to get open or working harder to get open.”
Running back revival
Veteran running back Willis McGahee had his best rushing average this season against the Jaguars when he carried 14 times for 57 yards (4.1 average) and a touchdown, the Browns’ second rushing score this season. In the second half, he tallied 10 carries for 41 yards (4.1 average).
“We just said in our mind, ‘This is what we were going to do. We got a game plan. We’re going to stick with it,’ ” McGahee, 32, said. “We did. We went out there and ran the ball pretty well. It wasn’t good enough in my opinion because it can always be better. But at the end of the day, I had a job to do and that was get the first down, keep the chains moving, give us plays until we started throwing the ball.”
The Patriots have shown they’re vulnerable against the run, ranking 31st in the league with 138.2 rushing yards allowed per game.
In October, the Patriots placed two Pro Bowl defenders on injured reserve – linebacker Jerod Mayo (pectoral muscle) and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (Achilles’ tendon).
“They’re key factors in their defense,” McGahee said. “Of course, there’s going to be a let off, but it’s not a big let off. They’re still playing football. They get paid just like we get paid. We’ve still got to respect them. They’ve been there day in and day out, so I don’t think there’s going to be a big difference.”
Rookie Leon McFadden is on the verge of receiving the most extensive playing time of his career because he’ll be filling the role of nickel cornerback Chris Owens, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a sprained knee.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton believes McFadden, a third-round pick in this year’s draft, is ready for more responsibility.
“He has my trust to go into a game,” Horton said. “He’s prepared hard. He’s worked hard on the field, and he’s earned his chance to play. He is one of our starters in waiting, and he’ll play for us and I expect him to do well.”
The Browns sent the uniform Gordon wore Sunday to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, where it’ll be displayed. The uniform has significance because Gordon wore it while becoming the first NFL player to tally 200-plus receiving yards in back-to-back games. The Pro Football Hall of Fame posted a photo of the gear on Instagram. … The NFL fined Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor $7,875 for grabbing the face mask of Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew while tackling him Sunday in the fourth quarter. Taylor also was penalized 15 yards for the play. … On their injury report, the Browns listed inside linebackers Craig Robertson (sprained right knee) and Tank Carder (sprained shoulder) and tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) as questionable for Sunday. Robertson is expected to start after sitting out the past two games. Quarterback Jason Campbell is one of five players listed as probable. Campbell will start, Chudzinski said. The Browns also ruled out quarterback Brandon Weeden (concussion, knee). Chudzinski said Weeden’s knee injury isn’t serious. … The Patriots ruled out offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) and wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot). They listed 10 players as questionable and another five as probable.
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.