By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden will not need surgery on his sprained right thumb, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
The team’s orthopedic surgeon examined Weeden on Thursday and determined that he won’t need surgery. X-rays on his thumb were negative, and an MRI showed a sprain. Weeden could be ready to play as soon as next week.
Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, has been ruled out for Sunday, when the Browns (0-2) will visit the Minnesota Vikings (0-2). Brian Hoyer will start in Weeden’s place, even though Hoyer was listed as the third-string quarterback and Jason Campbell was slotted No. 2 entering this week.
“I just think Brian, for where we are offensively right now, gives us the best chance,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Thursday. “That’s something we spent a lot of time talking about. Brian did a lot of good things when we went and played [the preseason finale] in Chicago, so we’re going to give him an opportunity.”
Weeden injured the thumb on his throwing hand when he inadvertently smacked it against left guard John Greco’s helmet Sunday in the fourth quarter of the Browns’ 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
“I apologized obviously, but that’s football,” Greco said. “I know Brandon understands it. The main thing is that you want to make sure his hand is all right. He’s working with the trainers to get that right and move forward.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski did not meet with reporters Thursday. On Wednesday, he said Weeden’s injury was not believed to be “a long-term issue.”
Chudzinski, though, would not commit to Weeden starting again once he’s able to return.
“I’m going to leave all the options open,” Chudzinski said. “Really, it’s a matter of where [Weeden is] at from a health standpoint and all that plays into it and where we’re at and how guys are playing as well.”
Does Hoyer, who has only one NFL regular-season start on his resume, have a legitimate chance to take over the job long term?
“I think that’s premature,” Turner said. “I think it’s an opportunity for Brian to go play, and he hasn’t played a lot of football. There’s going to be ups and downs when you haven’t played a lot.”
But Turner insisted Hoyer has the tools to operate the downfield, vertical passing game he wants to feature.
“He can make all the throws you need to make,” Turner said. “He’s actually a very good deep-ball thrower.”
As for Weeden, he has completed 47-of-86 passes (54.7 percent) for 516 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions this season. He also has taken 28 quarterback hits, including 11 sacks, and posted a passer rating of 62.0.
Despite Weeden’s rough start, Turner defended him Thursday and insisted he made some good plays against the Ravens.
When asked whether he believes Weeden can still be a winning quarterback in the NFL, Turner said, “Yeah, I do.”
Starting left defensive end Ahtyba Rubin hopes he can make his 2013 regular-season debut Sunday despite dealing with a strained right calf. Rubin strained a different area of the same calf last season and missed three-plus games after suffering a setback. He doesn’t want a repeat.
“You can’t really tell with a calf injury like that,” said Rubin, who was limited in practice the past two days. [It’s] kind of tricky. I’m doing everything right now to be able to play and hopefully perform good on Sunday.”
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton spoke as if he expects Rubin to play the Vikings.
“Power, strength, immovable object,” Horton said of Rubin. “He’s going to be a welcome addition to our defense, not only in the run game, but just leadership on the field. I’m glad he’s back.”
Like Rubin, right guard Shawn Lauvao (ankle) was limited Thursday. Strong safety T.J. Ward (shoulder), defensive end Desmond Bryant (wrist) and wide receiver Josh Cooper (shin) fully participated.
Several players have suggested that Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor smacked Ravens running back Ray Rice’s helmet Sunday because Rice spit in Taylor’s face.
Horton was asked if that’s what ticked off Taylor.
“All I know is what my player said to me, and I trust my players and we just moved on,” Horton said. “It’s a great learning lesson for Phil. Not only in football, in life. I’ve talked to our players about the biggest thing probably for a football player and a man, in this business, is respect. That type of incident is one of the most degrading, humiliating things you can do to another football player. I just trust my player.”
The Browns want enhancements to be made to FirstEnergy Stadium during each of the next two offseasons.
On Thursday night, the Browns released the following joint statement with the City of Cleveland: “We have established a positive relationship, we are working together, and we have had open dialogue regarding the necessary stadium repairs. In its 15th season, the stadium is in obvious need of significant maintenance, similar to any sports venue of comparative age. We are working through our next steps and expect to have a more detailed approach soon.”