BEREA: Cornerback Joe Haden will likely miss his third consecutive game Monday night when the Browns host the Baltimore Ravens because he has yet to clear the first major hurdle in the NFL’s concussion protocol, coach Mike Pettine revealed Friday.
Haden has not returned to baseline status in his neurological exam since suffering his second concussion of the season Nov. 1 in a 34-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. A player’s baseline is established during a preseason physical.
Haden, who missed two games with a concussion suffered Oct. 11 in a 33-30 overtime win against the Ravens, appeared to be kicked in the helmet by Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd.
“You get to the testing part of it where there’s a written test and a computer test,” Pettine said. “That right now is the obstacle [for Haden].”
Once players in the protocol return to baseline status, they must participate in physical activity — cardio and weightlifting — without experience symptoms again. Then they must be cleared by the team’s medical staff and an independent neurologist.
Each concussion presents a different timetable for return. Some players miss one game. Former Browns tight end Jordan Cameron missed five last season.
“There’s a sequence of testing, and it’s compared to your baseline,” Pettine said. “I know there’s a written part of it. There’s a computer part of it that goes back and compares. ... It’s a memory test. It’s all different pieces of it that once you clear all those, then you simulate contact and then you get cleared by the independent [neurologist].”
Wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel are still in the concussion protocol, too.
Like Haden, Hawkins has suffered two concussions this season. He missed two games after he got the first one Oct. 25 in a 24-6 loss to the St. Louis Rams. He and Gabriel were injured Nov. 15 in a 30-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns are still miffed about the vicious, concussion-inducing hit Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones delivered to Hawkins’ head in the opposite direction of safety Mike Mitchell’s 9-yard interception return from the goal line. Jones was not penalized or fined by the NFL.
“I have to be careful with what I say here,” Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said. “I was a little upset after that hit.
“It wasn’t called. It is what it is, unfortunately. We are going to miss Hawk. He is a heck of a football player.”
The Browns have suffered 11 concussions since training camp began in late July. Only the San Diego Chargers have had more with 12.
According to a PBS/Frontline database, the Browns lead the NFL in concussions since the beginning of the 2012 season. They have had 31, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals with 27.
“There would have to be some thought, some analysis to that,” Pettine said, “and I don’t know if I’d have a knee-jerk reaction that would provide an answer as to why we would be ranked where we are.”
Back to work
Left guard Joel Bitonio practiced Friday for the first time since he suffered a sprained ankle Nov. 5 in a 31-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He was listed as a limited participant on the injury report and said he didn’t do much.
“It was nice to finally get back out there with the guys,” Bitonio said. “When you’re away from it, you almost feel like you’re letting them down a little bit.”
Rookie Cameron Erving started in Bitonio’s place against the Steelers and expects to do the same Monday night against the Ravens.
But Bitonio vowed to play as soon as he’s able.
“We’re trying to test it out and kind of see where it’s at,” he said. “After you go and do a few things, just see if you can play four quarters. It’s a long game. It’s more than five or six plays at a time that you get out at practice. So we’ll see how that goes and how it responds.”
Where’s the rush?
Rookie linebacker, Nate Orchard, ranks 48th out of 48 outside linebackers who play in a 3-4 scheme in pass-rush productivity, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He has one hurry on 76 pass-rush snaps, per the website.
Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil disagreed with PFF’s numbers.
“He has been close on more than just one rush this year,” O’Neil said.
But O’Neil conceded Orchard, a second-round draft pick who had 18½ sacks last season for the University of Utah, hasn’t received ample opportunities.
“Nate is out there on early downs for us right now,” O’Neil said. “Most of the pass-rush situations, you have [Paul Kruger] out there and you have Armonty Bryant, so he hasn’t had a ton of opportunities. But I’m happy with where Nate is. You watch him in practice, he’s developed a couple good pass-rush moves. You can see him growing as the year’s gone on just watching him in one-on-one drills, watching him win against our offense in practice situations.”
Orchard said he can “definitely” develop into formidable pass rusher who posts double-digit sacks in a season. He also disputed PFF’s statistics.
“I feel like I have gotten close more than that, but at the same time, my role — and the coaches know this — I’m there to stop the run right now and that’s what I’m going to do continue to focus on,” Orchard said. “And when my time comes to rush the passer, which I have no doubt there will be opportunities for me, if it’s not this year, for sure next year, so I’m not stressing about it. I’m not worried about what [PFF] is saying about the Browns.”
•?After O’Neil studied the deficiencies of the league’s 30th-ranked defense during the bye, he concluded, “most of our mistakes came when we might have had a breakdown in communication. What we’re really trying to emphasize with our guys is we have to communicate at every level of the defense. Most of that falls on our safeties and our inside backers.”
•?With Hawkins and Gabriel expected to be ruled out for Monday, veteran wide receiver Dwayne Bowe might play for just the fifth time this season. “Could be,” DeFilippo said. “If the game dictates that Dwayne is going to be needed, Dwayne has had a good week of practice. Dwayne is ready if he is called upon.”
•?Defensive lineman Randy Starks (knee) did not practice.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.