BEREA: Alex Smith missed three games with a concussion, played only three offensive snaps upon returning to action two weeks ago and was inactive last week in the Browns’ loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Then in an unexpected twist, Smith moved from tight end to serve as a fullback Sunday in the Browns’ 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers. He played 22-of-63 snaps (35 percent) and was the lead blocker on running back Trent Richardson’s 26-yard touchdown run.
“I cherish those opportunities to get on the field,” Smith said Monday. “I don’t take those days for granted. I just want to have some type of impact whether it’s being energetic or throwing the key block or whatever it takes.
“I’m hoping this can expand into a bigger role. But just to be involved in the action at all — I have been sitting around for the last six weeks — I was happy.”
Smith caught a pass out of the backfield for a 1-yard gain, which isn’t nearly as insignificant as it might seem. Smith replaced fullback Owen Marecic, who has dropped four passes and caught none this season.
Last season, the Browns used Smith as a fullback on occasion, but he received much more playing time at the position Sunday. Based on coach Pat Shurmur’s review, it will likely continue.
“I wanted to get Alex back on the field,” Shurmur said. “I wanted to have a defined role for him because I think he brings some energy to our team. He was coming back from injury, and he played that position for us [before]. He actually showed up very well.”
Smith said he practiced at fullback all of last week and made an effort to get his timing down with Richardson, who gashed the Chargers for 122 yards on 24 carries despite playing through a rib injury.
“There’s definitely some chemistry involved, and that’s what I tried to focus on in practice,” Smith said. “For the most part, he was pretty comfortable with what I was doing.”
Who among the Browns could be uncomfortable with Smith’s effort and intensity? During Richardson’s touchdown run, Smith chipped two defenders before knocking defensive end Vaughn Martin to the ground.
“I ended up blocking three or four different people because it was one of those scrambling plays after a while,” Smith said. “Trent did a great job getting it through.”
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden completed only 11-of-27 passes for 129 yards against the Chargers, but he didn’t commit a turnover in the wet, windy conditions at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns have run 176 offensive plays since they committed their most recent turnover on Oct. 14.
“I think he can play better,” Shurmur said. “We’ve all said that you evaluate a quarterback, though, based on how he leads his team to victory. I think he battled.”
Undrafted rookie Johnson Bademosi received praise from Shurmur for catching Reggie Hodges’ punt to down it at the Chargers’ 3-yard line with 14:52 left in the fourth quarter.
“The whole game was a battle of field position, so I knew the situation,” Bademosi said. “I knew Reggie was going to put the ball in a great spot, so I just kind of had to play off him and try to stick them deep and put them in bad field position.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.