By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: New Browns running back Willis McGahee has surgically repaired knees and will turn 32 next month, but he still possesses the swagger of a player in his prime.
“I think I’m doing pretty damn good,” McGahee said Friday after practice. “Coming back from the knee injury, this and that, I can’t complain.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said McGahee will play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (0-2) after signing a one-year deal with the Browns (0-2) Thursday in the wake of the organization trading Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round pick in next year’s draft. Chudzinski said McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey will handle the tailback duties, though he wouldn’t reveal who’ll start.
“We felt like [McGahee] was the best guy available certainly,” said Chudzinski, who was the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami when McGahee starred there. “Me knowing Willis and how tough he is from a mental standpoint, what he brings to the table, I have 100 percent faith in him.”
McGahee hasn’t played since Nov. 18, 2012, when he tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and fractured his lower right leg against the San Diego Chargers. He had been training in Florida since the Denver Broncos cut him in June, waiting for a shot with another team.
Little did McGahee know the trade that shocked the NFL Wednesday would bring him to Cleveland. McGahee said the Browns called his agent, Chafie Fields, Monday, the day before CEO Joe Banner said he began talking to the Colts about dealing Richardson, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft.
“Honestly, to tell you the truth, when I got the call, he hadn’t been traded yet, and I thought, ‘I’m going to be working with Trent Richardson,’ ” said McGahee, who made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2011. “Then my friend called me and told me, ‘They just traded Trent.’ I called my agent, and he didn’t even know it. It’s the NFL. That’s how it is.”
McGahee said Ogbonnaya jokingly told him he was as “old as Methuselah.” Kicker Billy Cundiff, 33, is the only player on the roster who’s older than him.
McGahee, though, takes pride in his longevity. He insisted he’s 100 percent healthy and ready for his new opportunity.
“I want to do everything I can,” said McGahee, the only running back from the 2003 draft class still playing in the NFL. “I’ve got to gradually come in. I can’t do the whole workload. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
He’ll also speak his mind and refuse to be bashful about his confidence.
When asked if Miami still loses the 2002 national championship to Ohio State had he not torn ligaments in his left knee during the game, McGahee said, “Nope, we don’t. Everybody knows that.”
Although Chudzinski won’t commit to giving the starting quarterback job back to Brandon Weeden, he said he would “love to see more of” Weeden.
Weeden’s sprained right thumb is not expected to need surgery, Chudzinski said Friday after practice. He might be able to play as soon as next week after inadvertently smacking his throwing hand against left guard John Greco’s helmet Sunday in the fourth quarter of the Browns’ 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
“Brandon Weeden saw a specialist yesterday,” Chudzinski said. “It’s highly unlikely he will need surgery. We’ll see how he progresses for his status for next week.”
If Weeden is not out long term, will it affect Chudzinski’s decision about whether to insert him into the starting lineup again?
“Not really,” Chudzinski said. “We’re just going to take it week by week and see where he’s at and where we’re at. He’s played two games. I’d love to see more of him.”
Chudzinski, however, also wants to keep his quarterback options open for now.
“We’ll play by ear as it goes,” Chudzinski said, adding that he discussed his approach with Weeden and that he understands the situation.
On Wednesday, Chudzinski ruled out Weeden against the Vikings and named Brian Hoyer the Week 3 starter. Chudzinski gave Hoyer the nod, even though he entered this week as the team’s third-string quarterback and Jason Campbell was listed as Weeden’s primary backup on the depth chart.
“I have full confidence in [Hoyer],” Chudzinski said. “He’s had a great week of practice and preparation. I think as the week went on, we got better and better and better. I really feel we’re good at where we’re at right now. After that, we’ll evaluate.”
Outside linebacker Quentin Groves said he’s expected to be out four to six weeks with the high-ankle sprain he suffered Sunday. Groves said he’s never had a high-ankle sprain before.
“I hope I never have another one,” said Groves, who has been wearing a walking boot on his left foot. “This is my first one. It’s healing. It’s coming along rather quickly, so things are looking good.”
Defensive end Ahtyba Rubin (strained right calf) is listed as questionable for Sunday. He missed the first two games this season with the injury, and he believes his status against the Vikings will be a game-time decision.
“I’m feeling good,” Rubin said. “I’m feeling better than I did previous days and last week. I’m really just trying to take it easy, make sure I go out there and perform and make sure I don’t re-injure my calf again. I’ll get out there and run around Sunday morning and see how it goes.”
Right guard Shawn Lauvao (high-ankle sprain) is listed as doubtful. Strong safety T.J. Ward (shoulder), defensive end Desmond Bryant (wrist) and wide receiver Josh Cooper (shin) are probable.
The NFL fined Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger $7,875 for unnecessary roughness Sunday against the Ravens. He pulled an opponent’s helmet off. Neither Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor nor Ravens running back Ray Rice were fined for their altercation in the first quarter Sunday. Taylor smacked Rice in the helmet, and several players have suggested that Rice spit on Taylor. … The Browns picked left tackle Joe Thomas third overall in 2007, passing on Vikings running back and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Adrian Peterson, who went seventh overall. Even though Thomas is a six-time Pro Bowler, some fans will always wonder whether the Browns should have picked Peterson. “That’s fun barroom talk and back-and-forth banter, but I guess I can’t really compare myself to somebody that doesn’t play my position,” Thomas said. “He’s a phenomenal talent. If somebody says they should’ve picked Adrian Peterson instead of me, it’s not hurting my feelings because he’s a damn good player.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.