By Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal sports columnist
Browns receiver David Nelson would have worried about final roster cuts Saturday even if he hadn’t had a disappointing game Thursday night against the Chicago Bears.
Signed as a free agent in April, the former Buffalo Bill hoped to make himself a vital part of the Browns’ offense as he returned from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee suffered Sept. 9. Instead, a bone bruise in the surgically repaired knee kept him out most of training camp and the first three preseason games.
Admittedly nervous during his return to NFL action in an 18-16 victory over the Bears, Nelson was targeted 10 times and caught four passes for 54 yards. He had problems with cramping, dropped a ball on a slant that would have gone for a first down and slipped on the Soldier Field grass.
The Browns must trim the roster to 53 by 6 p.m. today and Nelson said he is worried. He survived the first wave of cuts that were announced Friday night.
“I don’t think anybody’s safe, and the fact I haven’t played the first three preseason games, I wasn’t able to show anything in OTAs and I wasn’t able to show anything in preseason. All I have to show is a week and a half of practice and the game I just put out there,” he said after the game in Chicago.
Nelson doesn’t know how the Browns front office will react to his performance.
“It’s in their control,” he said. “I feel like I had a great week of practice. But tonight for whatever reason, I just couldn’t keep things in rhythm. If I had 10 balls thrown to me, I wanted to catch it 10 times. I feel like I did some good things out there, but I was too inconsistent. I didn’t feel like I played up to my potential.”
Standing 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Nelson would provide a big target for quarterback Brandon Weeden, especially as No. 1 receiver Josh Gordon sits out the first two games while suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Catching 94 passes for 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns in 32 games with 17 starts for the Bills, Nelson hopes the time the Browns have invested in him convinces them to keep him.
“That’s what I’m praying for,” he said. “I want to be a part of this team. That’s what I’ve been busting my tail to show.”
Nelson came up limping after a Brian Hoyer pass intended for him was intercepted by Bears’ cornerback Sherrick McManus in the fourth quarter, but he attributed that to calf cramps.
“It had been building up throughout the game,” he said. “I’m not making excuses, but it was just a lot of volume in a short amount of time.”
He pronounced his knee “100 percent” and said he gained confidence in it as the game went on.
Browns cut seven
The Browns reduced the roster to 68 Friday with the release of seven players, including six undrafted rookies. The only veteran was tight end Dan Gronkowski, who caught a 14-yard touchdown pass against the Chicago Bears. He is the brother of New England Patriots’ tight end Rob.
Also waived were center Braxston Cave (Notre Dame), receiver Mike Edwards (Texas-El Paso), cornerback Abdul Kanneh (New Mexico Highlands), running back Miguel Maysonet (Stony Brook), safety Kent Richardson (West Virginia) and punter/kicker Colton Schmidt (UC-Davis), who was recently claimed off waivers from the 49ers.
Maysonet rushed 13 times for 30 yards and caught three passes for 14 yards in the preseason, and Edwards caught four passes for 39 yards. Kanneh recorded seven tackles (four solos), while Richardson totaled five tackles (four solos).
Nate Ulrich contributed to this report. Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.