By Ryan Lewis and Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writers
BEREA: Browns wide receiver David Nelson made it back Sunday for the final practice of training camp after sitting out for more than two weeks with a bone bruise in his right knee.
As a member of the Buffalo Bills, Nelson suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee during the season opener Sept. 9 against the New York Jets and missed the rest of the year. He signed a one-year deal with the Browns in April.
Nelson missed the first full-squad practice of camp and then participated in the next six. On Aug. 1, he left practice and had been out until he returned to individual drills Sunday.
Nelson said the bone bruise was not related to his surgically repaired ACL.
“It just happened to be in the same knee and it just happened to be in the same area,” Nelson said after practice. “That’s what was frustrating about it because I was making progress with the work that I’d been doing on the surgically repaired knee. Just a separate, freak deal.”
Nelson said the bone bruise occurred after he planted a little too hard during a route and his knee hyper-extended.
“These past two weeks were harder than last year just because the fact that I’m here ... getting back into the feel of things, kind of feeling I’m part of the team and then taking a step back,” Nelson said.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Nelson hopes he can play in the Browns’ “dress rehearsal” preseason game Saturday at the Indianapolis Colts. He said he’s “ahead of schedule” from the timeline team doctors originally gave him.
“I know training camp’s coming to an end, but I’ve been working my tail off for the past two weeks to get back out here, and the diagnosis when I originally did it wasn’t very good,” Nelson said. “I made a point to get out here as soon as I could, and so we kind of beat the prognosis and beat the time that was originally slated for me.”
Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner conceded Sunday that losing backup running back Dion Lewis to a fractured left fibula hurts because he could’ve been an ideal third-down back to complement starter Trent Richardson. Lewis will undergo surgery and miss at least half of the season and possibly the entire year.
“It was disappointing [because] he’s a guy that I think was going to give us some big plays,” Turner said. … “I don’t know if we have a [another] guy like Dion, but we have guys that can be pass protectors, that can catch the ball coming out of the backfield.
“Ultimately you’d like Trent to have some of that role, particularly in two-minute situations, end-of-the-game situations. You’d like him to do some of that because if you got your best player and on third downs, he’s always on the sideline, you’re probably not taking advantage of all your guys. We can’t wear Trent out, but we have to be able to use him in some of those situations.”
Richardson rumbled for 33 yards on six carries last week in a preseason win over the Detroit Lions.
“He is really rolling right now,” Turner said. “I’m impressed with what I see in practice. The plays he had in the game, he was outstanding, and he’s a guy that defenses have to gear their thinking to stopping.”
But even the best backs need reinforcements in today’s NFL. With Lewis and Montario Hardesty (arthroscopic knee surgery) sidelined, Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya, who’ll also play fullback, will be counted on.
“[Jackson] probably would’ve played a lot as the starter in some of the places I’ve been, so I’m excited about Brandon,” Turner said. “And Chris Obi, he can do a lot of things. He’s a pretty good third-down back.”
Right guard is another position of concern because Shawn Lauvao (arthroscopic ankle surgery) and Jason Pinkston (high ankle sprain) are expected to miss the beginning of the regular season. Rookie Garrett Gilkey, a seventh-round pick, is filling in.
“Gilkey has made a lot of progress in a short period of time,” Turner said. “He has a long ways to go, but he does give you some hope in terms of depth and a guy that eventually would be a player.”
As for the wide receivers, Turner said the team is preparing to adjust for life without Josh Gordon, who will serve an NFL suspension the first two regular-season games because he violated the league’s substance-abuse policy. He said Gordon, who’s been dealing with patellar tendinitis, did everything the team asked of him during camp and reports about him “loafing” in practice are unfair.
“I don’t think it’s fair to use that word if you don’t know what we’re doing,” Turner said. “It does make for a good article and it does get whoever wrote it some good attention, but I don’t think it’s fair without really digging in and saying, ‘What were you doing? What were you trying to accomplish in that drill? Why wasn’t this going on?’ You don’t know the medical situation and all of that. I’m happy with what Josh is doing.”
Turner is also happy with wide receiver Greg Little, who made a phenomenal catch Sunday between the coverage of cornerback Joe Haden and free safety Tashaun Gipson on a deep post route from quarterback Brandon Weeden.
“The thing that you love about Greg is there’s no one out here that works harder or practices harder,” Turner said.
Turner is encouraged by tight end Jordan Cameron, who had three catches against the Lions, including two touchdowns.
“Everyone got excited about the three catches,” Turner said. “I got excited about how he [blocked] in pass protection and against the run. He’s improving in that area, and that’s the area he needs to improve the most.”
The Browns were in a feisty mood Sunday.
During a punting drill, wide receiver Tori Gurley tangled with linebacker Tank Carder. When other players, including defensive end Billy Winn, tried to break them up, Gurley delivered a hand to Winn’s face mask. Winn responded by ripping Gurley’s helmet off, then his own, and shouting at Gurley. Browns coach Rob Chudzinski intervened and escorted Gurley to another field.
Later, nose tackle Nicolas Jean-Baptiste and offensive lineman Martin Wallace fought during a pass-rush drill. After a few shoves, Jean-Baptiste ripped Wallace’s helmet off and swung it at him.
Even the red jerseys weren’t safe. Weeden, via cornerback Buster Skrine, and fellow quarterback Jason Campbell, via Carder, were shoved to the ground, a major no-no in practice.
The Browns re-signed undrafted rookie running back Jamaine Cook and waived undrafted rookie safety Kenronte Walker. The 5-9, 210-pound Cook, a Middleburg Heights native and Youngstown State University product, originally signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent April 30 and was waived May 21. … Defensive end Desmond Bryant (back), punter T.J. Conley (groin), kicker Brandon Bogotay (groin), wide receivers Jordan Norwood (hamstring) and Naaman Roosevelt (hamstring), cornerback Trevin Wade (shoulder), outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung) and tight end Gary Barnidge (shoulder) were among those who sat out. … Cornerback Chris Owens returned to practice and ran with the first-team defense in 11-on-11 drills after sitting out Saturday with an illness. … Rookie cornerback Leon McFadden (groin) returned to team drills. … Undrafted rookie cornerback Abdul Kanneh intercepted a pass from Campbell.
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.