BEREA: Undrafted rookie running back Isaiah Crowell is hoping to be more involved Sunday when the Browns (4-3) host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6).
Crowell’s role was very limited in the Browns’ 23-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders. He only played three snaps and had one carry and 1 rushing yard.
“I am just trying to stay in the loop on things, keep learning and keep working hard,” Crowell said Thursday. “It was real disappointing, but you have to do what is best for the team. We won the game, so I was proud about that.”
Starting running back Ben Tate played 31-of-56 snaps and had 15 carries for 26 yards Sunday. Rookie Terrance West, a third-round pick, played 22 snaps and had seven carries for 11 yards.
Crowell leads the team in average yards per carry (4.9) and rushing touchdowns (four).
“There’s a lot to like, and we think he has a bright future,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “He’s very young. ... He was a guy that we thought ... was going to need the full year. On his own, with a little help from [running backs coach] Wilbert [Montgomery], [he] has really accelerated that learning curve.”
Crowell dropped two pitches and lost a fumble in the Browns’ 31-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6, but he has also shown a flash in the backfield.
“We only can play one back at a time,” Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “Every single play in the NFL is crucial. You don’t get a ton of plays. You never know what’s going to happen. Especially when you’re not doing as good on third down, you don’t know how many plays you’re going to get. I wish we could give all of them carries, but we’re not going to.”
Crowell said he hasn’t had ball-security issues in practice.
“Really, the only thing that went on was in the Steelers game,” Crowell said. “I don’t know what the deal was with [the last game]. I just let the coaches deal with that. I can just control what I can control.
“We only had  snaps, so I understood how the game went.”
Fans of LeBron James
When Pettine walked into the Browns media center for his news conference Thursday, he immediately commented on none of the local TV stations sending cameramen.
“A little sparse in here today,” Pettine said with a smile. “Is there something else going on? Or have I sufficiently bored everybody to death?”
Of course, Pettine knew Akron native LeBron James’ first regular-season game back in Cleveland with the Cavaliers was stealing his thunder.
Backup quarterback Johnny Manziel, cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner were among the players planning to attend the Cavs opener against the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena.
“There’s a good relationship with the teams. I know there’s a bunch of our guys that are going down,” Pettine said. “We had to have [director of player engagement] Jamil Northcutt address it in the team meetings — parking and do’s and don’ts heading down there. It’s good. It’s an exciting time.
“I’m not going to make it down but probably try to at least record it and catch some of it. But I can tell you there’s a great buzz in the city because of it.”
James attended the Browns’ victory over the Oakland Raiders last weekend.
“I got a text from my [oldest] daughter [Megan] after the game,” Pettine said. “She was upset that it was the one game she didn’t come to and he was there.”
Haden, a Cavs season-ticket holder, said he was hyped for the basketball game.
“I am ready,” Haden said. “I got my outfit in my locker. I am just going to wear some Red October’s [Nike shoes] and be courtside. I have my seats directly across from the Cavs bench, so me and ’Bron are going to be here [points at his eyes, meaning connected].
“I am just excited to be a part of it. Just to be here in Cleveland with the hope of our football team trying to turn things around and then LeBron getting back with the Cavs.”
Nike released a new commercial with James and several teammates, including Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao, in it. The theme is winning a title for Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio, with fans rallying around the team.
“Donte showed me,” Haden said. “That is really nice. I watched it before practice, so I went out there and practiced a little harder.”
Quarterback Brian Hoyer and Dansby also shared in the excitement.
“It’s real awesome,” Dansby said. “I saw him play down in Miami. He did an excellent job down there, and for him to come back to Cleveland when I come to Cleveland, it’s perfect. It’s perfect timing. Everything’s lining up.
“Everybody’s talking about it. How do you not talk about it? It’s LeBron. It’s the Cavs. Kevin Love. Kyrie Irving. They’ve got some electrifying players on their team and if they pull that thing together, it can be very, very dangerous, very exciting.”
Give a dog a bone
Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil opened his news conference by explaining the story behind the dog collars hanging in the lockers his players.
“We wanted to develop a unique way to keep reinforcing playing like a Brown,” O’Neil said. “It was a huge part of what we wanted to do in the offseason when it came to evaluating our players. It’s something that we preach to those guys constantly. So what we came up with that was unique to the Dawg Pound was to give each player a dog collar, and those guys would be rewarded for plays on the field with a bone [tag] for every time they did something that we considered a play-like-a-Brown play.
“It’s not necessarily something that shows up in the stat sheet. It doesn’t have to be a great play. It could be a 30-yard gain where a defensive lineman chases down the running back, and it’s just an exceptional effort.”
O’Neil doesn’t know which defender holds the lead in dog bones earned, but the coaching staff plans to tabulate and give players a midseason report next week.
“I’m sure there’s guys in the locker room kind of eyeballing other guys’ collars to see who’s got the most tags on it,” O’Neil said.
The race has become competitive.
“[The players] argue sometimes with their position coaches,” O’Neil said. “The position coaches have final say. As they’re grading the tape, they’ll put PLB [play like a Brown], circle it, highlight it, so they can see it on their grade sheets.”
A really good performance, O’Neil said, would yield between five and eight bone tags.
“We just don’t hand them out now,” O’Neil said. “It’s got to be something exceptional.
“It’s hopefully going to be a good tradition for us defensively moving forward.”
Dansby said the dog collar idea is “slick” and “pretty cool,” and when asked if he can count how many bone tags he has, he said “Right now? I’d be here all day.”
Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion) and starting defensive lineman Phil Taylor (arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 8) did not practice Thursday.
Taylor rode a stationary bike on the sideline for the second consecutive day. Taylor has missed the past three games, and Pettine doesn’t expect him to play in either of the next two games.
All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas (rest) and wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) returned to practice Thursday.
Starting nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) fully participated in practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday.
Practice squad changes
The Browns signed wide receiver Phil Bates to the practice squad Thursday and released defensive back Marcus Cromartie a day after signing him.
Bates, 6-foot-2 and 220-pounds, signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and he spent time on their practice squad each of the past three seasons. He was elevated to their active roster last week and made his NFL debut as a reserve.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.