BEREA: The Browns will enter their regular-season opener Sunday with a makeshift offensive line. Coach Pat Shurmur has yet to name a starting left guard, and right tackle Tony Pashos wore a walking boot on his left leg Monday.
So how soon must the line assemble to adequately prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals?
“As soon as possible,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “Obviously, [the coaches] got to go through what they got to go [through] to figure out who’s going to be the starters where. So I don’t know how long it’s going to be.”
Artis Hicks could be the solution to at least one of the problems. He practiced with the team after signing a one-year deal on Monday. The Browns waived offensive lineman Pat Murray to make room on their 53-man roster.
The 6-foot-4, 325-pound Hicks started 68 of the 109 regular-season games in which he has appeared. His starts have been at left tackle (eight), left guard (27), right guard (30) and right tackle (three). Last season, he started 10 games at right guard for the Washington Redskins, but he lost his starting job and never regained it after suffering a groin injury. The Redskins cut Hicks, 32, on Saturday.
“Every opportunity you get is a blessing because I know so many guys that came in with me or after me that are at home doing something else,” said Hicks, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2002. “Every day you get to come out here, go to work and be a part of a team, it’s a blessing. So, you just have to be optimistic about it and make the most out of every situation because one thing we all know is this is not guaranteed for any of us.”
Hicks could start at left guard, but rookie Jason Pinkston continued to fill that role on Monday. The two are neighbors in the locker room.
“Right now, we’ve got Jason in there, but we’ll see,” Shurmur said. “There’s a little bit of work left to do as we get ready to play, and I’m really not saying right now who the starters are.”
The 6-4, 305-pound Pinkston started the team’s final two exhibition games in the spot previously held by Eric Steinbach, who’s out for the season after undergoing back surgery Aug. 30. Pinkston said he is ready to compete with Hicks or anyone else.
“I understand it’s a business, and they’re gonna bring in guys that are experienced,” said Pinkston, a fifth-round pick. “There’s nothing I can do about that. But we’re one team, and I just want to win.”
There’s also a chance Hicks could start at right tackle if Pashos isn’t able to play. John Greco is another candidate.
Pashos wasn’t on the field Monday in the early portion of practice open to reporters. However, he eventually surfaced and stretched with his teammates as practice wrapped up. Last season, he missed the final 10 games with a right ankle injury that required surgery.
“He’s got a sore [left] foot,” Shurmur said. “We’re just letting it settle down, which is not uncommon. Those boots are magical sometimes, so I wouldn’t read into that yet. He’s just got a sore foot that’s settling down.”
Hicks said he’s ready to play tackle if needed. His versatility is his greatest strength.
“I’ve played everywhere except for center,” Hicks said. “I’ve always been a guy that’s just tried to come in and do what’s asked of me no matter what it is. I don’t expect this to be any different. I don’t have any expectations other than to go out there and just try to learn the system and try to fit in with these guys.”
Learning the system shouldn’t be too hard if Hicks can remember his first four seasons in the league with the Philadelphia Eagles. At the time, Shurmur was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach, and Browns General Manager Tom Heckert worked in the Eagles’ front office. Shurmur’s West Coast offense is similar to the one he learned from Eagles coach Andy Reid.
“It feels like it’s been a millennium ago,” Hicks said of his days with the Eagles. “But once you’ve been in a system and you’ve heard the terminology, it’s just like having a toolbox. You put those things away in a toolbox, and later on you might have to go back and pull them out. Yeah, they’re gonna be rusty, but you grind them a little bit, polish them up and you’re ready to go again.”
The Browns need Hicks to knock the rust off in a hurry.
“The offensive line’s a lot about playing together and continuity and things like that,” Thomas said.
“But sometimes you have some adversity, and you just got to roll with it and get the five guys that are going to be out there ready to play.”
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.