BEREA: Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi believes he won’t have any problems getting his head back in the game.
Massaquoi is confident he’s ready to return to action after missing two of the past three games with symptoms related to a concussion he suffered Oct. 23 against the Seattle Seahawks. He practiced all week and is listed as probable on the injury report.
“I’m real optimistic right now,” Massaquoi said. “It’s Friday, I feel real good and I’m just looking forward to Sunday.”
Coach Pat Shurmur said he expects Massaquoi to play Sunday when the Browns (3-6) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6). Massaquoi has started in all seven games in which he has appeared this season. He has 18 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns.
After Seahawks safety Atari Bigby caused the concussion with a hit to the helmet, Massaquoi missed the Browns’ following game against the San Francisco 49ers. He returned the next week against the Houston Texans but left the game because he felt woozy. He also was inactive Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, though he said he hasn’t felt any symptoms since Friday or Saturday of last week.
Massaquoi also suffered a concussion last season when Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison delivered a vicious blow. The NFL fined Harrison $75,000 for the hit and later reduced the penalty to $50,000.
Still, Massaquoi said he won’t worry if he faces the Jaguars. He believes he’ll become vulnerable to other injuries if he allows himself to be timid.
“If I’m active, I’m going to feel comfortable,” Massaquoi said. “I’m not going to play restricted. I’m not going to play cautious. That’s why you prepare yourself to make sure that if you do go out there on the field that you’re fully ready to go.”
It will be a game-time decision whether running back Montario Hardesty plays Sunday, Shurmur said.
Hardesty, who is questionable for the game, practiced Friday for the first time since he tore a calf muscle in his right leg Oct. 30 against the San Francisco 49ers. He participated in some individual drills but sat out during team drills, Shurmur said.
With Hardesty’s status uncertain and Peyton Hillis (hamstring) out, Chris Ogbonnaya is prepared to serve as the Browns’ starting running back for the third consecutive game. After averaging 3.4 and 2.2 yards per carry in his previous two outings, Ogbonnaya had 19 carries for 90 yards (4.7 average) in the Browns’ 13-12 loss to the Rams.
“Whatever I can do to help is gonna be a plus for us,” Ogbonnaya said. “Our main focus is just to stay on the field and stay ahead of the chains. I can’t do that without the offensive line doing the job that they did. They gave me a lot of opportunity to make yardage, so we’re hoping that we have a better performance than that this week against the Jags.”
If Hardesty is inactive, Thomas Clayton will serve as the No. 2 running back. In two games, he has seven carries for 8 yards (1.1 average).
Why not Moore?
During training camp, the preseason and the first couple of weeks of the regular season, tight end Evan Moore established himself as quarterback Colt McCoy’s go-to target in the red zone. Moore caught two touchdown passes from McCoy in the preseason and one in each of the first two regular-season games, but he hasn’t scored since. He didn’t even have a catch against the Rams.
The Browns, meanwhile, haven’t scored a touchdown at home since Oct. 2 against the Tennessee Titans. So why doesn’t Moore have a more prominent role in the offense?
“I don’t think his role has been diminished,” Shurmur said. “We threw him a ball last week in the end zone on a fade [and he was called for a facemask penalty]. His role is not diminishing. We use him, and we plan to use him a bunch in the red zone. We just need to get down there more and get more plays and you’ll see him more.
“Then we use him in the offense as well. He’s had production in every game, and I think the other thing to keep in mind from the tight end position is that Ben Watson does a good job, so there’s some tight end production there that you don’t necessarily want to take Ben off the field either. It’s a good problem to have when you have some guys at tight end that can make plays, so we’ll just keep trying to use them.”
Defensive end Jabaal Sheard said he’s not satisfied with the way his rookie season has unfolded because he wants to be among the league’s elite pass rushers who have double-digit sacks.
Sheard has 2½ sacks, though he believes he has missed chances to record more. He has repeatedly bit on quarterbacks’ pump fakes, leaving his feet to try to bat down passes and allowing his target to flee.
“I keep jumping,” Sheard said. “I need to stay on my feet and just finish with the tackle. I’ve been trying to knock down the ball and just missing the sack.”
Shortage of Shorts
The Jaguars selected Cecil Shorts III out of Mount Union in the fourth round (114th overall) of this year’s draft, though he has yet to become a consistent part of their rotation at wide receiver. He has returned 12 punts for 50 yards this season, but he has not made a catch. He also has been dealing with a hamstring injury in recent weeks and has been inactive for the Jaguars’ past two games.
Has the jump from Division III Mount Union proved to be too much for Shorts?
“I don’t really see it that way,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think he’s a good football player. He has the skill set that we think is gonna lend itself to playing at this level and playing well for us. He really had a great camp and then just has not started the year the way that we hoped.
“He’d been a little bit nagged by some injuries. He’s working his way back now. Hopefully in the second half of the year we can see more of the guy that we saw when we drafted him, that we saw in camp. So we think his upside is strong. He’s gonna be a good player for us, and we just need to get him going.”
Other injury updates
In addition to Hillis (hamstring), strong safety T.J. Ward (foot/finger) has been ruled out. Hardesty, defensive end Auston English (knee), offensive lineman Tony Pashos (ankle) and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (knee) are questionable.
Massaquoi (head), Sheard (thigh), defensive end Jayme Mitchell (chest/ankle) and safety Usama Young (shoulder) are probable. Mitchell returned to practice Friday after missing it Thursday for a personal reason.
The Jaguars have ruled out defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (ankle). Defensive end Aaron Kampman (hamstring) is doubtful. Fullback Brock Bolen (calf) and wide receiver Brian Robiskie (hamstring) are questionable. Shorts (hamstring) and defensive end John Chick (abdomen) are probable.
The NFL has fined Browns right guard Shawn Lauvao $7,500 for head-butting Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing late in the second quarter on Nov. 6. Lauvao was penalized for unnecessary roughness. The league did not announce the fine until Friday.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://browns.ohio.com. Follow the Browns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ABJ_Browns and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.