BEREA: The Browns will pay defensive end Marcus Benard the rest of his salary for this season even though he has been placed on the reserve nonfootball injury list after a motorcycle crash Monday, a league source confirmed Thursday to the Beacon Journal.
Benard, 26, was charged with driving under a suspended license and reckless operation after he lost control of his three-wheeled motorcycle and hit a guardrail alongside Interstate 71 in Brooklyn near Cleveland. He suffered a broken hand and is out for the season.
Benard was released Thursday evening from the Cleveland Clinic, a team spokesman said.
The Browns are not required to pay Benard while he’s on the nonfootball injury list. However, they are going to pay him about $370,000, which is the remainder of his 2011 base salary of $525,000.
“They know him as a person. He didn’t just get here; he worked hard to get here,” kick returner and wide receiver Josh Cribbs said. “People are going to make mistakes in life. He didn’t purposely try to hurt anybody. He’s a young guy. It happens.”
The fact that they’re honoring his contract can go a long way toward creating good will in the locker room.
“Mike Holmgren knows that he has a family. I feel more compassion for this organization because they did do that. Because they’re looking out for him and his family,” Cribbs said. “He doesn’t make a lot of money. Even though he made a mistake, that shows this organization has integrity.”
Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron feels for Benard.
“It’s so devastating for the young man to go through that and he really was just starting to get back from preseason injuries and setbacks and those kinds of things,” Jauron said. “It’s a big disappointment, very disappointed for him and for us, but I’m thankful that he’s still with us.”
Benard is scheduled to appear in Parma Municipal Court at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Positions in flux
The Browns defensive backfield could see some changes Sunday, when they face the Oakland Raiders at 4:15 p.m. at the O.co Coliseum if cornerback Joe Haden, who continues to rehab his sprained left knee, can’t play.
“It would be a big blow obviously. There’s no way around that one. Joe has played at a very, very high level,” Jauron said. “He’s a very enthusiastic player, and he’s important to us.”
In that event, Dimitri Patterson, who normally plays nickel back, moves into Haden’s starting role and rookie Buster Skrine assumes the nickel-back slot. It wouldn’t be a new experience for Patterson, who started 10 games last season with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was signed as an unrestricted free agent.
“It’s a good opportunity anytime you can start in this league,” Patterson said. “It’s a tough league, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Skrine, a rookie out of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, doesn’t have that type of experience.
“It’ll be my first time playing in a regular-season game a lot at cornerback, so I’m ready,” he said.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur expressed confidence in Skrine.
“He’s come in and been everything we thought he would be. I think I’ve called him a gritty player. He likes challenges and those are the reasons he’s shown up,” Shurmur said.
Center Alex Mack is another player who might be out Sunday. He underwent an appendectomy Oct. 3 and watched practice Thursday.
“If Alex can’t go, I feel good with backup Steve Vallos,” Shurmur said. “He’s played a lot of football, and I really like him as a center. I think he’ll help. He’ll do fine.”
Vallos expressed confidence in his ability and is not concerned about making clean exchanges with quarterback Colt McCoy.
“I was the scout team center, and he was the scout team quarterback. This isn’t our first time snapping to each other,” he said.
Even if Haden and Mack don’t practice today, Shurmur said that doesn’t preclude them from playing Sunday.
They are giants
The Raiders’ defensive line tipped seven passes at the line of scrimmage Sunday against the Houston Texans.
That unit, led by veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour, averages 6-foot-4, forcing a shorter McCoy to contend with a lot of height.
“I’ve always been 6-2, and there’s always been guys taller than me. It’s one of those things that you kinda got to adjust to and it’s part of playing the game,” McCoy said. “They’re good at what they do. They’re good in the secondary, good at linebacker, huge up front, so we’ve got to take advantage of some things and go play consistent.”
Raiders coach Hue Jackson doesn’t think that his line’s stature will play a big role.
“[McCoy has] always found a way to make it happen, and I think he’ll continue to do so. I hope we’ll knock every pass down that he attempts to throw if we can,” he said. “But this guy’s a winner. He knows how to play, and I think he does a great job in their system.”
Hillis’ increased load
Expect running back Peyton Hillis, who only rushed the ball 10 times against the Tennessee Titans in the most recent game, to get the ball more Sunday as the Browns try to ramp up the running game against a Raiders defense that is stout up the middle. In their last game, the Raiders held the Texans to 70 yards rushing. For that reason, it might be easier to run the ball outside, but Shurmur said that’s not the case.
“I think the natural reaction because the two defensive tackles [Seymour and Tommy Kelly] are playing so well is that you run away from them. I think you have to attack them everywhere in this front,” he said. “Peyton Hillis is going to get the bulk of the carries; I can tell you that.”
Haden and Mack didn’t participate in practice Thursday. Linebacker Titus Brown (ankle), Cribbs (knee) and right tackle Tony Pashos (ankle) participated on a limited basis.
Sports writer Nate Ulrich contributed to this report. George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohiomm.com/blogs/varsity_letters/. Also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ABJ_Varsity. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.