BEREA: Rookie Brandon Weeden realizes he needs to check himself before he continues to wreck himself — and the Browns’ chances of winning.
Weeden threw the first of two interceptions Sunday on a crucial third-and-1 from the New York Giants’ 25-yard line, sparking the defending Super Bowl champions’ 17-point outburst in the final two minutes, 52 seconds of the first half. The Browns failed to adequately counter, and they fell 41-27 after leading 14-0 and 17-7.
The loss is especially tough for Weeden because he believes it could have been prevented if he had just thrown the ball away and let Phil Dawson kick a field goal. He hopes to redeem himself Sunday when the Browns (0-5) host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) in an AFC North rematch from earlier this season.
“It’s an ego thing and I think I just need to get rid of the ego and take what they give me and move on and not be as stubborn,” Weeden said Wednesday after practice. “Just throw the football away and move on.”
The play was designed for Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, to target wide receiver Jordan Norwood in the flat. Norwood was open initially, but it didn’t last long.
“After watching the tape I probably could have popped it to him right away,” Weeden said. “Once I got out to my fifth step, which is usually where I go outside, it was covered up. That’s why they’re saying, ‘Always throw it in the bleachers.’ ”
But instead of launching the ball out of bounds, Weeden threw high and behind rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon as he cut toward the middle of the field. Gordon was supposed to cut toward the sideline, Weeden said.
“I think he got mixed up on the terminology of the call,” Weeden said of Gordon. “We have two types of calls. He broke in versus out. Regardless, it doesn’t matter. That’s still on me.”
Weeden ultimately blames himself because he made the decision to throw the ball when he shouldn’t have. The ill-advised pass sailed into the hands of strong safety Stevie Brown, who returned the interception 46 yards to the Browns’ 40. Two plays later, the Giants scored a touchdown, and they never relinquished the momentum.
Weeden has completed 112-of-202 passes (55.4 percent) for 1,288 yards. He has thrown five touchdowns and nine interceptions, which is tied for most in the NFL. His passer rating is 64.5.
Weeden, who will turn 29 Sunday, is still searching for the right balance between taking shots and taking care of the ball.
“There’s a fine line between being aggressive and being overly aggressive,” Weeden said. “Yeah, it’s difficult because I want to make a play. I want big-chunk plays. I want explosive plays. We have the capability of doing that. We have the personnel to throw it, and I’m able to make those throws. In this league, you hear people say it every week: It’s a matter of one or two plays each week that decide a game. You’ve just got to be smart.”
Tight end Alex Smith practiced Wednesday for the first time in nearly a month and expects to play Sunday after suffering a concussion Sept. 16 in the Browns’ first meeting against the Bengals.
But the decision to return wasn’t easy for Smith. He even thought about retiring.
“It definitely crosses your mind,” Smith said. “But I kind of made my mind up that as long as the doctors say there’s no risk in going back out there, if I’m not putting myself in any further harm to go back out there, then I felt comfortable going back out there.
“But if there was that small chance that something further could come of the injury, then I might have to consider it. Just hearing what’s happening with all these guys that played in the past and all the things that are popping up, it definitely scares you. So you have no choice but to let it cross your mind.”
In Week 2, Smith left the game after catching a 3-yard pass from with 9:57 left in the fourth quarter. He believes he took an inadvertent knee to the helmet during the play.
A few minutes later, he walked to the locker room with members of the team’s medical staff. He was later taken to a Cincinnati-area hospital and driven back to Northeast Ohio the following day.
Smith said it was his first documented concussion.
“I’ve never had that feeling before,” he said. “Never. It’s kind of hard to explain [how it felt]. It’s just a big headache. I was just on the field, and it wasn’t one of those like it was going away anytime soon. So I knew.”
Smith said he wasn’t cleared to resume exercise until about a week ago. He is no longer experiencing symptoms, he said.
“I’m 100 percent,” Smith said. “There’s no lingering anything. That’s kind of what [medical staff’s] main position is — you don’t want to have any type of lingering effects or feel anything before you get back on that field. So I feel good and ready to go.”
Starting middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was at the team’s headquarters and attended meetings, coach Pat Shurmur said, but he did not practice after suffering a concussion Sunday. If Jackson can’t play, undrafted rookie L.J. Fort would likely fill in.
“I prepare the same every week just in case he does go down, so it’s really not changing anything for me,” Fort said. “Hopefully he does come back, though, because he’s a huge part of our defense.”
Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin also was sidelined after suffering a calf injury Sunday. Rookie John Hughes would replace Rubin in the starting lineup if he doesn’t face the Bengals.
Wide receivers Jordan Norwood (foot), Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring) and Travis Benjamin (hamstring), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and safety Tashaun Gipson (knee) also sat out.
Rookie running back Trent Richardson will serve as the Browns’ fourth captain against the Bengals. … The Browns signed wide receiver Rod Windsor to their practice squad after cutting linebacker Benjamin Jacobs.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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