SAN FRANCISCO: Browns running backs won’t be eager to return to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Montario Hardesty suffered a strained right calf Sunday in the first quarter of the Browns’ 20-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park.
The Browns were already without starter Peyton Hillis, who missed his second consecutive game with a pulled left hamstring. Hillis tried to come back from the injury, suffered Oct. 16 against the Oakland Raiders, but aggravated it when he returned to practice Wednesday.
Asked what he could do about losing both players during games at Oakland and at San Francisco, Browns coach Pat Shurmur joked, “Quit coming to the Bay Area.”
“I don’t think it has anything to do with what we’re eating or the plane we’re flying,” Shurmur said.
Hardesty’s last carry was a 5-yard gain with 12:03 left in the first quarter. He was replaced by Chris Ogbonnaya, whom the Browns signed off the Houston Texans’ practice squad Oct. 18.
Hardesty said that he was running a pass route when he first felt the strain and that it tightened up, preventing him from returning. Shurmur said Hardesty would undergo an MRI today.
Hardesty finished with two carries for 6 yards. Ogbonnaya rushed 11 times for 37 yards and caught five passes for 24 yards.
“I felt this was a big opportunity for me,” Hardesty said. “I want to play. I felt this was a big game for our team, and I wanted to be there to try to help the team win any way I could. It was tough on me.”
Hillis sat out Thursday and Friday and was listed as questionable. Shurmur said the final decision on Hillis’ status came Sunday morning, but “there were indicators all the way.”
Hillis has been sidelined for three games this season, one with strep throat and two with his injured hamstring. The Browns are 2-1 this season without him.
For more than 15 minutes during warmups, Hillis and third-string quarterback Thaddeus Lewis took turns trying to hit the cross bar while throwing from the 35-yard line.
Hillis’ new wedding ring sparkled during the passing competition. He reportedly got married Tuesday in Northwest Arkansas.
Browns linebacker Chris Gocong injured his right shoulder in the fourth quarter tackling Ted Ginn Jr. during a punt return. He was replaced by Kaluka Maiava, who played despite hurting his right knee in practice Thursday. In the third quarter, Browns cornerback Dimitri Patterson suffered a left knee injury, but he returned.
Kicker Phil Dawson hit his fourth field goal of longer than 50 yards this season, converting from 52 yards as the first half expired. This is the most field goals of 50-plus yards in a season for Dawson, in his 13th year. Dawson’s previous best was three in 2008.
Dawson, who played Sunday with a bruised right thigh he suffered Oct. 23 against the Seattle Seahawks, pointed out that the Browns’ last seven successful field goals have all been 47 yards or longer.
After being gashed for four big plays on special teams in the past two games, Dawson said: “I’m proud of our special teams. We answered the bell. It would have been easy to overestimate some of the mistakes we made and think that we’re terrible. We were tested today by a very good special teams unit and really held our own.”
The 49ers’ special teams are coached by Brad Seely, who held that position with the Browns the previous two years.
Browns Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs said he spoke to Seely. “He said he missed me,” Cribbs said. “I told him he’s got [Ted Ginn Jr.], just a younger version of me, a little lighter.”
Ginn averaged 9 yards on two punt returns and 16.5 yards on two kickoff returns.
Starting wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was inactive after suffering a concussion against the Seahawks. In addition to Hillis and Massaquoi, safety Ray Ventrone (hamstring), center Steve Vallos, offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, defensive end Auston English (knee) and Lewis were inactive for the Browns. Cribbs started in place of Massaquoi. First-year receiver Jordan Norwood saw his most extensive action of the season, and receiver Carlton Mitchell was active for only the second time.
49ers wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who spent four seasons with the Browns after they drafted him third overall in 2005, played for the first time since suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee on Sept. 18.
Edwards had surgery to repair the injury and missed four games, but he made sure he was back in time to face his former team. Edwards was targeted seven times and had four catches for 42 yards.
Tight end Benjamin Watson started despite suffering a concussion against the Seahawks. … Right guard Shawn Lauvao also started after hyperextending his right knee and leaving in the first half against the Seahawks. … In the second quarter, Browns rookie receiver Greg Little took a nasty blow to the head from safety Dashon Goldson, who was called for a personal foul. “It’s just football. I’ve been hit before,” Little said. “We kind of joked about it [afterward]. I told him to keep playing hard. … Brad Maynard had six punts for a gross average of 44 yards with a net of 41 yards. He placed four punts inside the 20-yard line, including one that was downed at the 49ers’ 1. … Rookie defensive tackle Phil Taylor had one sack, one forced fumble and two tackles.