ITEM: Browns lose starting OLB to Achilles tear
Cleveland Browns linebacker Chris Gocong suffered a season-ending torn right Achilles in practice and will undergo surgery as early as Monday, Coach Pat Shurmur told The Plain Dealer.
“We’re disappointed he got hurt,’’ said Shurmur. “I’m very fond of Chris and the effort he puts into being a good football player. Anytime a good football player like that gets hurt, unfortunately there’s a loss there. The challenge for us is to cover it up with the guys that are on this roster. I talked to Chris, he’s fine. Unfortunately we’re moving on and he understands that.’’
It’s the second major injury to a defensive player this season. Defensive tackle Phil Taylor suffered a torn pectoral muscle in May and is out until at least late October or early November. The Browns are also preparing to be without linebacker Scott Fujita for the first three games of the season for his bounty-gate suspension.
According to Mary Kay Cabot, Gocong did the all-too-familiar “Achilles grab’’ on the field while defending a touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron. The injury was non-contact.
Middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson admitted Gocong’s injury is a huge blow for the defense. “Every year it’s something. It’s a part of the game, but you don’t get used to it.’’
With the injury to Gocong and Fujita’s suspension looming, rookie linebackers James-Michael Johnson, their fourth-round pick, and Emmanuel Acho, their sixth-rounder, will be asked to fill in. If the Browns had to line up for a game today, their likely starting outside linebackers would be Kaluka Maiava, who started the final five games of the season after Fujita went on injured reserve with a broken hand, and Johnson.
ITEM: Bengals add reinforcements at cornerback
With cornerbacks Brandon Ghee, Adam Jones, Jason Allen, Dre Kirkpatrick and Shaun Prater all nursing injuries, the Cincinnati Bengals moved rookie Taveon Rogers from wide receiver to cornerback and announced the signing of free agent cornerback T.J. Heath.
“We are getting some guys back,” defensive backs coach Mark Carrier told Cincinnati.com. “But I’ve learned you can never have enough corners or DBs in camp.”
Jones and Allen could return and see action soon. Ghee suffered a wrist injury during practice on Thursday, Aug. 2. Thursday’s practice. On Saturday, Coach Marvin Lewis said Ghee, “had his wrist set yesterday. Now he’s on the mend.”
The team is taking a cautious approach with Nate Clements (abdominal strain) and Leon Hall (Achilles). Clements returned to practice on July 31, and Hall is coming back from last season’s torn Achilles. So far, rookie Chris Lewis-Harris is the only cornerback to have participated in every practice since camp opened.
“I’m not really that concerned,” defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. “I think Kirkpatrick (knee) will get back. He’s going to be behind obviously. (Terence) Newman’s done a good job. And we’re being careful with some of the guys. We’ve got Clements back. Obviously Leon is doing a nice job, and Jason Allen will be back shortly. I think we have a good group. I feel good about the group. I think they’ll compete and they’ll try to do what we ask them to do. And I think they’ll all tackle.”
ITEM: Ravens’ O-line still in flux
Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk missed a sixth straight practice on Aug. 4 because of back spasms, which means it’s likely he will miss the team’s preseason opener on Aug. 9 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Birk, 36, has had a number of health issues this offseason, and it began with surgery to repair varicose veins in his legs. He’s had knee troubles in the last two seasons, but Birk has never missed a game since coming to Baltimore.
“Matt is resting,” Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun. “He had some back spasms, too. It’s probably both me and Matt. Matt has had the back spasms, but I am going to probably slow him down a little bit more, especially this week, and then maybe next week after the game, we will get him back a little bit more.”
In the meantime, Bryant McKinnie is confident that he’ll get his left tackle job back. He said he feels healthy enough to play right now and that despite all the attention being paid to his conditioning, he’s nearly 20 pounds lighter than he was when he was signed late in training camp last year.
But McKinnie also admitted he’s concerned enough with how much his weight fluctuates that he’ll see a specialist on Monday, Aug. 6.
“I think it’s my metabolism,” McKinnie said Saturday. “I don’t know how to diagnose it until I find out on Monday. It’s just to better help me with my whole weight thing because this wasn’t an issue my whole career until about three years ago, in ‘09. I think there’s kind of like an imbalance or something maybe that is going on with metabolism. We’re going to try and work on it.”
McKinnie said he weighs 360 pounds, which is 15 higher than what was supposed to be his reporting weight. McKinnie said he played last year in the 370s.
“In the past, I was doing stuff like going to practice and after practice I would go with sweatsuits and stuff on and go play tennis for an hour and a half just to make weight. It kind of takes a toll on your body trying to do all that,” McKinnie said. “I’m sure other people in the league have to do stuff like that to try and keep your weight down. But actually, you’re dehydrating yourself. So I’m finally going to get checked and see what’s going on and correct it.”