BEREA: Despite a scare, rookie Brandon Weeden still has a realistic chance to become the first Browns quarterback to start every game in a season since Tim Couch in 2001.
Weeden suffered his first concussion Sunday in the fourth quarter of the Browns’ 20-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he practiced Wednesday on a limited basis after being medically cleared. Weeden is expected to start Sunday when the Browns (3-8) visit the Oakland Raiders (3-8).
“It was mild,” said Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft. “I never got knocked out. I was conscious the whole time, just a little foggy. Obviously, the league’s taking these things pretty seriously. So you’ve got to go through the mandated steps, and I passed all those. So I’m ready to rock and roll.”
Weeden suffered the concussion when his helmet hit the left leg of Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas as Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds pulled him down with 5:20 remaining. Weeden threw an incomplete pass during the play. The Browns then punted, Weeden walked to the locker room and backup quarterback Colt McCoy entered the game with three minutes left.
“It was so frustrating that I stayed in [the locker room] with my uniform on and watched it on TV and begged the doctors to just let me go out on the sideline,” Weeden said. “But, of course, they wouldn’t let me. I was disappointed by it. I wanted to finish that one, but it was nice to celebrate with the guys after the game in the locker room.”
Weeden hopes to hand the Raiders their fifth consecutive loss and celebrate at O.co Coliseum, though he must improve to ensure it happens. He’s still aiming to prove he can consistently make the right decisions.
“Throughout the course of the year, I think I’ve gotten better,” Weeden said. “I think every game there’s going to seem like areas where I try to fit balls into tight windows. … My comfort level in understanding this offense, [knowing] what we’re trying to do week in and week out more than anything has kind of enabled me to learn and to progress as far as making the right decisions.”
Coach Pat Shurmur said Weeden made the right call when he tried to complete a short pass to wide receiver Greg Little on third-and-7 at the Browns’ 49-yard line. Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel tipped the pass at the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons then intercepted it and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead with 13:49 left in the opening quarter.
“If that ball was completed, we would have had a first down,” Shurmur said. “He was throwing to the right guy. The ball got tipped. You always coach against it. You want to throw in lanes and all that business. But sometimes tipped balls are like fender benders on the road. Sometimes they happen.
“But for the most part, it’s extremely important that the quarterback always makes good decisions, whether you’re being aggressive with the football or taking into account the situation in the game. You get what you emphasize, and I’ve seen some improvement there.”
Following the interception, Weeden believes he applied another valuable lesson. He bounced back and didn’t commit another turnover against the Steelers’ No. 1-ranked defense.
“You can’t let one mistake early in the game [dictate] the way the day is going to go,” said Weeden, who completed 17-of-26 passes Sunday for 158 yards and a touchdown with an interception for passer rating of 78.7. “You’ve got to regroup and start on that second possession like it’s the first and move forward and build on positive plays. We were able to do it a little bit in the game. I got a short memory and those tipped ones, what can you do?”
Now Weeden, 29, hopes to rebound from his concussion.
“I felt good ever since Sunday night,” he said. “[I] got a lot of sleep, slept well and I’ve been great.”
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Weeden never had to leave a game during his career at Oklahoma State University because of an injury, playing through a high-ankle sprain and a ruptured tendon in his thumb. However, he realizes a concussion is different.
“If you see any fogginess, you’ve got to be smart about it,” Weeden said. “You’re talking about a brain. All of these guys have suffered serious injuries after they’re done playing because they think they’re related to concussions and you don’t want to risk that. I don’t want to be 50 years old and not remember playing in the NFL. And I’d much rather sit out five minutes of a game than risk the long-term effect.”
Weeden acknowledged his quick return to action was out of his hands. Still, he’s grateful he won’t be forced to sit out against the Raiders.
“I wanted to do everything on my part to come back and play because I felt like I’m fine and I felt like I’m ready to go,” Weeden said. “But I think it’s not like it’s an ankle or a hand or something. It’s your brain, and you’ve got to be smart. And that was my first and foremost worry, is to make sure I’m 100 percent before I even think about it. But it was going to be hard for me not to make that trip. I’m going to be there, and I’m going to play.”
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.