BEREA: Rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon knows his best chance to break out might be on the horizon because the Browns are battered and bruised.
The Browns (0-4) were short-handed at wide receiver and safety Monday as they prepared for their road game Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants (2-2). Gordon is among the players who could receive more playing time as a result.
“It’s a battle of attrition with a lot of guys in the league falling in and out, getting injured,” Gordon said. “Guys behind them like me, we definitely feel the pressure to step up, make big-time plays. When your number’s called, you definitely have to step up to the plate.”
Of the six players who were sidelined during practice, three were wide receivers: starter Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), Josh Cribbs (concussion) and rookie Travis Benjamin (undisclosed).
“We’re hoping for the best,” rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “But if they’re not able to go, which we won’t know for several days, those other guys gotta step up.”
Starting strong safety T.J. Ward had surgery on his right thumb this past weekend, coach Pat Shurmur said. Ward, undrafted rookie free safety Tashaun Gipson (knee) and tight end Alex Smith (concussion) didn’t practice, either.
After Browns General Manager Tom Heckert picked Gordon on July 12 in the second round of the supplemental draft, he said Gordon possesses the talent to become a No. 1 wide receiver. Although Gordon has yet to prove it, he hasn’t lost confidence.
“I definitely feel as though I can and hold my own and I could be placed among those elite-level wide receivers,” said Gordon, who has played 144-of-262 offensive snaps (55 percent) and has tallied only seven catches for 93 yards. “But just making the opportunities for myself and capitalizing on those is the biggest thing, and when I get that done, then we’ll eventually see what happens.”
If Massaquoi, Cribbs or Benjamin can’t return in time to face the Giants, the door could also open for Jordan Norwood or undrafted rookie Josh Cooper.
Norwood was inactive for the first three games, but he played Thursday night in the Browns’ 23-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and finished with four catches for 56 yards. The Browns dropped several passes against the Ravens, and Norwood was one of the culprits.
“I think it was plain to see that I would’ve liked to have played better along with other guys,” said Norwood, who also might return punts and kickoffs in place of Cribbs and Benjamin. “Hopefully we’ll turn those things around.”
Cooper is on the practice squad, so the Browns would need to elevate him to the 53-man roster to use him Sunday.
“Every time I’m watching I’m saying, ‘I’d like to be out there, and I’d like to help out the team a little bit if I could,’ ” Cooper said. “I want to help.”
As for the safeties, Shurmur described Ward’s status as “day-to-day,” though it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to face the Giants. Shurmur pointed out that special-teams ace Ray “Bubba” Ventrone had a similar surgery on his left hand after he broke it Sept. 9 in the regular-season opener. Ventrone missed one game and has played the past two weeks with a cast.
“I know T.J. will try to fight through it,” said starting free safety Usama Young, who practiced Monday after suffering a knee injury against the Ravens. “It’s gonna take a lot to keep him off the field, so who knows?”
If Ward is sidelined Sunday, Young could move to strong safety, provided he’s healthy enough to play, and Eric Hagg could return to the starting lineup. Hagg started the first two games at free safety before being replaced by Young, who rotated with Gipson.
“I’m very confident if he’s in there, he’s gonna do great,” Shurmur said of Hagg, who has spent the past two games on the inactive list.
Weeden lost a bet with backup quarterback Colt McCoy because Oklahoma State fell 41-36 to Texas. Weeden will wear Texas gear sometime this week to pay off the bet. … Former Browns players Bernie Kosar and Andre Rison will be featured in Broke, an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about professional athletes who have lost fortunes. It will air at 8 tonight.
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.