BEREA: Josh McCown has endured a painful rib injury for the past month, but he looked like a new man Tuesday when the Browns returned from a five-day, bye-week break.
He spent time with his wife and kids at their home in Charlotte, N.C., coached a couple of his sons’ basketball games, attended his daughter’s gymnastics meet and returned to the Browns refreshed.
“Super refreshed,” McCown said with a laugh as he joked with a reporter who asked if the veteran was “super refreshed.”
It’s a good thing McCown has some pep in his step. After all, he was named the starting quarterback Tuesday when coach Mike Pettine demoted Johnny Manziel because of his partying during the team’s brief vacation.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Pettine said McCown would be the starter “going forward,” Austin Davis would serve as his primary backup and Manziel would be third on the depth chart.
So when the Browns (2-8) host the Baltimore Ravens (3-7) next week on Monday Night Football, McCown will start for the eighth time this season and the first time since the rib injury he suffered Oct. 25 in a 24-6 loss to the St. Louis Rams was exacerbated Nov. 1 in a 34-20 defeat against the Arizona Cardinals.
McCown, 36, said he’d be good to go against the Ravens. He has come a long way since his encounter with the Cardinals caused him to experience trouble breathing and sleeping.
“Certainly the last few weeks have helped, and I would say I’ve improved a good deal,” McCown said, speaking before Pettine announced his decision to bench Manziel. “So I’m thankful for that, for sure.
“I feel a lot better and obviously when you’re dealing with ribs and stuff like that, you never know [what will happen] until you take that first hit, but it feels like I’ve gained some ground there. So I’m pleased with that, and I’ll be ready to go.”
McCown’s record of 1-6 as a starter this season doesn’t reflect how well he has played. He has completed 65 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns, four interceptions and a rating of 95.2.
He leads the league in third-down passing efficiency, converting 38-of-70 attempts (54.3 percent).
His lone win came against the Ravens, a 33-30 triumph in overtime Oct. 11 in Baltimore. McCown passed for a career-high and regular-season franchise record 457 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, posted a rating of 111.3 and rushed for a touchdown.
“I don’t know if I would go into the [rematch with the Ravens] trying to break the record, but it would be cool to get a win,” McCown said. “When you are a 2-8 team, it would be great to get a win in front of the home crowd and on Monday night. That is all I would care about.
“You want to get a win for our team, for the guys in the locker room and for the fans and the people that support us. The city has been awesome in how they support us. We need to put a good product out there and win the football game. That is my focus. If it means breaking a record, great. If it means watching [our running backs] break a rushing record, that would be awesome, too. All I want to do is win the game.”
McCown realizes the Ravens will make adjustments after he shredded them.
“I think you can draw on that from past performance. You also know they are going to watch that tape and take some of those things away,” he said. “It is not like you can just roll the ball out here and say this is going to happen again. We will have to tweak some things that we have done and put together our own plan. The coaches will do a good job of that, and we will be ready to roll.”
McCown is eager to get back on the field after a much-needed break.
“It was good to be away and really assess things and come back with good energy,” he said. “... When you get into this stage of the year, it’s hard, but for the guys in this locker room and the men that we have, I feel like the character of our veterans that we can keep fighting, fight through this thing. It really exposes who you are, so I’m looking forward to fighting with these guys for the last six weeks.”
Cornerback Joe Haden and wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel did not practice Tuesday. They remain in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Left guard Joel Bitonio (ankle) and defensive lineman Randy Starks (knee) didn’t practice, either.
Pettine said it remains to be seen whether Bitonio or Starks could return in time for Monday’s game. He said there’s a chance Bitonio “would at least get himself to the point where he’d be questionable for the game.”
If Bitonio doesn’t play, rookie Cameron Erving would start in his place for the second consecutive game.