BEREA: Nearly three weeks after becoming the main reason for an NFL rule change, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy still has not been medically cleared to practice.
McCoy suffered a concussion following a helmet-to-facemask hit by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison on Dec. 8.
Although Browns coach Pat Shurmur acknowledged Wednesday that McCoy has attended meetings, lifted weights and is running, he has not passed his daily baseline concussion test.
Shurmur would not divulge specifics regarding McCoy, but the Browns could be without his services for a third consecutive game.
“He’s not passing it,” Shurmur said. “Until it’s passed, he can’t play. He’s much better, he feels a lot better and he’s doing more. But until he’s cleared to play, he can’t.”
That leaves McCoy’s status for the Browns’ finale, a rematch with the Steelers on Sunday, in jeopardy.
As a result of the Browns’ handling of McCoy’s concussion, NFL teams are now required to have independent trainers monitoring possible concussions.
Despite the violent hit, McCoy’s concussion was not originally detected by the Browns and he was allowed to come back into the game, throwing a late interception that sealed the Steelers’ 14-3 victory.
Harrison was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul and was suspended for a game by the NFL as a repeat offender.
That might have been enough in the Browns’ eyes had Harrison (who did not practice Wednesday with a neck injury) not been so outspoken last week in interviews and on Twitter, showing no remorse for his head-hunting tactics.
That Harrison has now given three Browns (McCoy and receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaqoui) concussions in the past two seasons has led to speculation about possible retaliation.
Several Browns dismissed that notion after Wednesday’s practice.
“What you’re trying to do is win, so anything that diverts from trying to win is not a good strategy,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “Personal vendettas and things like that detract from your team having the best chance to win.”
Rookie receiver Greg Little said that if fans were willing to pay the fine, he’d gladly go after Harrison, then grinned and said he was just joking.
“I don’t think we should go about this game with personal vendettas,” Little said. “The optimal goal is to win the game and not to take a cheap shot on guys.”
So is the 6-foot, 242-pound Harrison a dirty player or just misunderstood?
“They are unfortunate plays,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I base my judgment on his quality of play and the total body of work and from being around him day-to-day for the last five years. I can say comfortably that I don’t believe James Harrison is a dirty player.”
Browns receiver Evan Moore doesn’t think the former Coventry High and Kent State player is necessarily dirty, but said, “there are rules we have to abide by and he hasn’t done that.”
Center Alex Mack paused before responding to a question about whether Harrison is a dirty player.
“I mean, he’s getting fined,” Mack said. “I prefer no one to get injured. That’s not something I wish for when I play the game. I want to win. That’s what I go for, and so you do what you can to play a violent game, but you don’t have to injure people.”
Veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson agreed there is no message to be sent to Harrison.
“The way he plays the game is the way he plays the game,” Jackson said. “We can’t go look at it like we’re trying to get back at Harrison. We know what to expect from him. We have to focus on our job as individuals and do what we need to do to win the game.”
Cribbs played on the same teams with Harrison at Kent State, but he said their college allegiance doesn’t put him in an awkward position as professionals on opposing sidelines.
“Oh, no, not at all,” Cribbs said. “He’s an aggressive player. He has to play within the rules. He was fined and mandated by the league just like anyone else that would get in trouble. We played with each other and we’re really cordial. But when the lights turn on, we’re enemies. Off the field is a different story, but on the field I don’t know him.”
Wallace likely to start
With McCoy still sidelined, veteran backup Seneca Wallace will likely make his third consecutive start for the Browns on New Year’s Day.
“It’ll probably be just like last week,” Shurmur said. “[Wallace] is taking all the reps and the longer it goes in the week, pretty darn good shot he’ll be the starter.”
Scott Brown, of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, tweeted Wednesday afternoon that safety Ryan Clark said the Steelers really don’t get a break with Colt McCoy out because “Seneca Wallace is better than McCoy.”
In his two starts, Wallace has completed 37-of-64 passes for 373 yards with an interception and a fumble. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a high ankle sprain against the Browns but returned to the game, participated fully in practice Wednesday.
Another Tribune-Review reporter, Mark Kaboly, also weighed in via Twitter early Wednesday afternoon, tweeting: “Roethlisberger has absolutely no limp at all walking through the locker room today. He looks 100 percent fine.”
Such a speedy path to recovery has not been the case for McCoy.
“I know he’s disappointed,” Mack said. “He wants to be out here. He wants to work hard. But it’s important that he’s healthy. It taking longer than we want it to is not what you want, but in terms of health, it’s important.”
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