By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns quarterback Jason Campbell put his emotions aside for the greater good, but it wasn’t easy.
After Brandon Weeden sprained his right thumb Sept. 15 in the fourth quarter of a 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, coach Rob Chudzinski named Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback for Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings. The decision was surprising at the time because Campbell was listed second on the depth chart and Hoyer third.
“Did it sting a little bit?” Campbell said Friday after practice. “Yeah, it stung a little bit ’cause as a competitor, you’re disappointed. But then all the sudden, you find it’s not about you, it’s about the team, and they’re trying to find out what they have on this team going forward. My job is to support these guys, and at the same time, try to stay prepared, stay mentally in it and just be prepared to play at any time.
“I’ve been in this game long enough to understand there comes a time when you have to shift roles. But you never lose your edge. I always still have that edge because a decision doesn’t define who you are as a player or as a person. Whether a person agrees with a decision or doesn’t agree with a decision, the decision is made, and you move forward and you don’t hang onto it. That’s helped me in the past. It’s helped me now.”
Campbell is an injury away from being thrust into action. He’ll serve as the primary backup to Weeden when the Browns (3-2) face the Detroit Lions (3-2) on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Weeden will return to the starting lineup this weekend because Hoyer, who led the Browns to back-to-back wins after they began the season with consecutive losses, suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 3 in the first quarter of a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills. Hoyer is scheduled to undergo surgery Oct. 18 at the Cleveland Clinic, Chudzinski said.
“We’re hoping that [Hoyer] would be back during the spring [for] OTAs [organized team activities] and all of those things,” Chudzinski said.
In the meantime, Weeden, 29, will receive a second chance this season to show what he can do as a starter. Campbell, 31, will be in the background to advise him.
When Campbell joined the Browns by signing a two-year, $3.75 million contract in March, he made it clear he thought he still had what it took to start. But Hoyer, 27, leapfrogged him despite having only one NFL start on his resume heading into this season.
Campbell is 31-40 as a starter, so the team’s decision-makers know what they have in him. They wanted to find out what Hoyer could offer.
“I’m pretty sure it had something to do with it,” Campbell said.
After Hoyer was given the nod, Campbell decided to serve as a mentor instead of rocking the boat.
“Not get in the way and not be a distraction — that was my whole main focus in that situation,” Campbell said. “[I had to] just understand, ‘Hey, at some time comes a point in your career where you have to shift gears, kind of got to understand your role a little bit and just keep moving forward.’ I understand helping these younger guys is part of my role.”
Browns starting right outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard (sprained left knee) and backup left outside linebacker Quentin Groves (high-ankle sprain) are listed as questionable for Sunday, meaning there’s a 50 percent chance they’ll play.
Both players practiced all week on a limited basis and said decisions about whether they’ll face the Lions will be made Sunday morning after they work out at the stadium.
Sheard hasn’t played since he suffered his injury Sept. 22 against the Minnesota Vikings.
“When you feel good, when you don’t feel pain anymore and you’re able to move and just do the same things you’ve got to do play in and play out [you know you’re ready],” Sheard said. “So we’ve been doing a lot of that in practice, off to the side, doing some running, and I feel pretty good. It’s just going to be a mindset of things, getting back out there and feeling confident in it.”
Groves has been idle since he was hurt Sept. 15 against the Ravens.
“I feel pretty good,” Groves said. “But at the same time, today’s not Sunday. We’ll wait till Sunday to make the final decision if we’re going to go or if we’re not.”
Once Sheard and Groves return, they’ll join starting left outside linebacker Paul Kruger and rookie backup right outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo in the defense’s rotation of edge rushers. Undrafted rookies Paul Hazel and Eric Martin will be bumped out of that rotation.
“All coaches want their best guys out there,” Groves said. “Not to take anything from Hazel or Martin, but we’ve been through training camps, we’ve been through OTAs, I’ve been in the system two years and Jabaal’s a starter. So if we can have that rotation, it’ll mean a lot for us.”
The Browns ruled out backup defensive end Billy Winn (quadriceps) for Sunday. Fullback Chris Ogbonnaya (concussion), defensive ends Desmond Bryant (illness) and John Hughes (knee) and Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas (elbow) are probable.
Lions All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson (right knee) practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday. Johnson sat out Sunday during a 22-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers and did not practice Wednesday.
Chudzinski said the Browns expect Johnson to play this weekend, and inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said the defense is focusing on harassing quarterback Matthew Stafford no matter what.
“We’re going to do what we do best,” Jackson said. “We’re going to attack them whether Calvin’s in there or not, going to try to apply some pressure on them. If you can get a good quarterback off his spot, it kind of rattles him a little bit.”
The Lions ruled out wide receiver Nate Burleson (forearm), running back Theo Riddick (concussion) and tight end Tony Scheffler (concussion).
Sheard isn’t a fan of the way Lions standout defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh plays. The NFL has fined Suh six times and suspended him once for illegal plays against opponents since he entered the league in 2010.
“I just watch the highlights that y’all put on ESPN with him hurting somebody,” Sheard said. “It’s crazy. It’s the league, so guys play hard. I respect how hard he plays, but I’m not a dirty player, so I really don’t care for it. There’s offensive linemen that play like that. There’s a few guys out there that kind of just play that way. I don’t respect it. I don’t like it. He’s a great player. He’s a dominant player. I don’t think he needs to do all the dirty stuff.”
Browns cornerback Joe Haden and Lions rookie cornerback Darius Slay agreed to exchange jerseys after the game Sunday. Slay, a second-round pick from Mississippi State, lists Haden as his favorite cornerback.
“He’s been a fan of mine since I played for Florida,” Haden said. “He hit me up the other day on Twitter, asked me if he could get the jersey after the game. So we’ll be switching out jerseys. That’s just something cool that I have another player from another team that looked up to me when he was playing college ball. Never growing up I would’ve thought I’d have another player that I’m playing against looking up to me. It was kind of cool.”
Slay told the Detroit Free Press that he’s excited for the exchange.
“I’m going to give it to him right off my back, just like he’s going to do his,” Slay said. “I want his with all stains in it and everything. I ain’t going to wash it. I’m putting it in a frame.”
Lions coach Jim Schwartz reflected on starting his NFL career in Cleveland and praised Browns General Manager Mike Lombardi during a conference call this week. The relationship began in 1993, when Schwartz worked under Lombardi as a scout for the Browns.
“Mike is probably the smartest guy I’ve ever met in the NFL,’’ Schwartz said. “He never needs to look at notes. He’s just one of those guys that can recall every single player and every single game. I certainly learned an awful lot from Mike and [coach] Bill Belichick. I got a chance to go there as an unpaid intern and really just learn as I went.”
The NFL fined Browns left guard John Greco $7,875 for committing a face-mask penalty in the third quarter against the Bills. The league also fined Bills safety Aaron Williams $21,000 for unnecessarily striking Browns wide receiver Davone Bess in the helmet in the first quarter and Bills running back Fred Jackson $7,875 for taunting in the second quarter by unnecessarily flipping the ball to an opponent. There were no fines for Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso, who hit Hoyer in the helmet as he slid and suffered a torn ACL, or Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson, who repeatedly pumped his fist after hitting Bills quarterback EJ Manuel on the right knee and causing a sprained lateral collateral ligament. … Browns backup running back Fozzy Whittaker said he took some reps at kickoff returner this week. He doesn’t know if he’ll get a chance to do it Sunday, but he insisted he’s ready. … In an interview with USA Today, Browns CEO Joe Banner reiterated the message Chudzinski delivered to local reporters earlier this week about wide receiver Josh Gordon. “We’re absolutely not shopping Josh,” Banner said. “We’re not going to shop him, and we don’t have any plan or intention to trade him.” … Schwartz on the Browns’ turnaround: “Reports of the death of the Browns were greatly exaggerated. They were 0-2 and there was a lot of talk of that was it for the season. All they’ve done is roll off three straight wins.”
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.