BEREA: Sheldon Brown has been a full-time starting cornerback in the NFL since 2004, but his role has now seemingly been reduced.
He said the Browns have told him he’ll enter the action when the defense employs its nickel package against three-receiver sets. In other words, Buster Skrine is expected to start in place of Brown, and Dimitri Patterson will fill in for suspended starter Joe Haden when the Buffalo Bills (1-1) visit the Browns (0-2) Sunday. Brown would only start if the Browns open in nickel.
“I’m not going to be a distraction,” Brown, who has started 131 games in his 11-year career, said Thursday after practice. “I never will be a distraction. Too much respect for [General Manager] Tom Heckert and [coach] Pat Shurmur, so it is what it is. I’m here to help this team. If that’s in a mentoring role, I’m here to help mentor. And I have no problem with doing that.”
Brown’s streak of 33 consecutive starts for the Browns ended Sunday in a 34-27 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He played only one snap, extending his streak of regular-season games played to 162 in a row.
In Week 1, Brown suffered a neck stinger while tackling Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy during the first quarter. However, Brown said he could have played against the Bengals, even though the team insists the injury kept him on the sideline for virtually the entire game.
“Maybe they were protecting me, I don’t know,” Brown said. “I’m just telling you that I did what I had to do through the week to be ready to play, and I thought I could play.”
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said the Browns were cautious with Brown because of his injury.
“We entered that week being told that Sheldon would be very limited through the week and for the game, very limited,” Jauron said. “We took that approach into the game and tried to limit his exposure in that football game to any more injuries. Hopefully he has had that week to recover and we move from there.”
With Brown idle for all but one play, Skrine and Patterson started. Rookie Trevin Wade covered the slot in nickel packages.
Brown said he anticipates playing on the outside in nickel against the Bills. In that case, Patterson would likely cover the slot, and Skrine would probably stay on the outside.
“Sheldon’s going to be in the game quite a bit this week,” Shurmur said of Brown’s changed role. “In my opinion, there’s nothing there. He’s looking forward to helping this team win games. I think if you ask him he’ll tell you that.”
The Browns liked the way Skrine and Patterson played in the final three quarters against the Eagles. The secondary, though, was torched by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns.
Skrine, in particular, had a rough day. Brown has offered his support.
“Buster is one of my favorites of all time,” Brown said. “From Day One, he always listened, he wanted to learn. He’ll be a great pro. He’ll bounce back. My message to him is, ‘One game doesn’t define you.’ You can’t define your career until it’s over. So it’s over and done with, move onto the next week, you go out you get a pick, break up a couple passes and you’re a hero again. It doesn’t matter.”
Brown takes his role as a mentor seriously. He said he will do anything the team asks “without ruffling any feathers,” even if he never returns to the starting lineup.
“I don’t care if it’s this week or the rest of the weeks,” Brown said. “It’s whatever they want to do. It’s their call. They have the keys. They get to crank it. They get to paint it the color they want, put the wheels on it.”
Friction with fans
Wide receiver Greg Little drew the ire of some fans on Twitter by posting a photo of himself striking Jamaican track star Usain Bolt’s celebration pose shortly after the Browns lost Sunday.
Later that night, Little fired back at fans who gave him grief by tweeting, “Honestly I really don’t care what fans say I really could careless! I ride with the 53 men in the locker room and the coaches thats it.”
He didn’t change his stance Thursday.
“I don’t care what [fans] say,” Little said. “I think if I cared about every opinion that I got on Twitter, then I wouldn’t be able to function. I just don’t know what to say to that. It’s mind-boggling to me. I can’t let things on Twitter get to me and I don’t.”
Some also have criticized Little for dancing after his 24-yard touchdown catch with 7:11 left in the fourth quarter, when the Browns still trailed by a touchdown.
“It’s never anything that’s premeditated with me,” Little said of his celebration. “It’s always a very genuine expression when I do score. … None of my teammates and the leaders of this team have come up to me and expressed their concerns. That’s all I care about. Nobody from the coaches have come to me and stressed it’s something that’s distracting our team. I’m just going to continue to score touchdowns.”
More playing time?
Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress said rookie running back Trent Richardson will likely begin to play more snaps on third down. But it remains to be seen how soon Richardson’s workload increases.
Richardson played 48 of the Browns’ 67 snaps (72 percent) Sunday. Chris Ogbonnaya, meanwhile, served as the team’s third-down running back.
“We kind of use [Richardson] as we see fit,” Childress said Thursday. “We had Obi written into the plan last week and for right now he’s doing a good job with that. That’s always some of the hardest things to learn is picking up the protections and that type of thing. But we’ve got guys. I believe many hands make light work and so you want to use guys whose particular skill level really kind of fits that situation. I think Trent, you’ll see Trent grow into playing more and more on those third-down situations.”
Richardson missed most of training camp because he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 9. Childress conceded the lost time has affected Richardson’s lack of playing time on third down.
“You want him to do the things he’s mastered, and the other stuff, you’re always trying to refine and get better,” Childress said. “It surely couldn’t help to miss those three weeks and all the blitz drills that we’ve had and those type of things.”
Shurmur called Richardson “an every-down back” Wednesday. So how long will the Browns wait to let Richardson prove it?
Tight end Alex Smith (concussion) and rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson (ribs/oblique) were the only players who did not practice Thursday. … Rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn (concussion) and backup offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (ankle) fully participated after being limited Wednesday. … With a net worth of $1.2 billion, incoming Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III is ranked 360th on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans.
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 at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.