BEREA — The Browns are down to one quarterback — one healthy, though very shaken quarterback who has become a target for Cleveland fans.
With Jason Campbell being treated for a concussion, Brandon Weeden, twice benched this season and a lightning rod for fan anger, will likely start this week against Jacksonville.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Campbell is following the NFL’s protocol on head injuries after he was hurt in Sunday’s 27-11 loss to Pittsburgh.
Campbell was knocked to the ground by blitzing Steelers cornerback William Gay, who came unblocked off the edge and delivered a blow to the quarterback’s facemask with his left hand. As he fell, Campbell also banged his head onto the frozen ground.
The play was not caught by referee Terry McAulay or anyone in his crew for a penalty. Chudzinski, who plans to submit the play to the league office for review, said he was told by officials during the game that they thought Campbell was struck in the shoulder.
“It doesn’t seem like they miss that call very much,” outside linebacker Paul Kruger said Monday.
Campbell has not been ruled out of this week’s game, but Chudzinski said “chances are” Weeden, who began the season as Cleveland’s starter, will get the nod against the Jaguars.
Weeden is the only quarterback on Cleveland’s roster, but Chudzinski said the Browns (4-7) will likely add a backup in the next few days. Teams typically work out players on Tuesday before signing them.
The team will reportedly bring in free agent Caleb Hanie for a tryout. A former backup with Chicago and Denver, the 28-year-old was released by Baltimore before the season.
Campbell came to the Browns’ training facility Monday before he was sent home. He’ll undergo further evaluation this week and will have to pass a concussion test before he is cleared to play.
Chudzinski said he spoke briefly with Campbell, who was assisted to the sideline and driven to Cleveland’s locker room after Gay’s hit.
“I think he was OK, felt OK,” Chudzinski said.
Campbell’s injury places Weeden back in the crosshairs of some Cleveland fans, who vented their frustration at him during Sunday’s game. Weeden was booed when he came in for one play in the first half after Campbell aggravated a rib injury and again when Cleveland’s starter was knocked out of the game.
The negative reaction by fans made an already unpleasant atmosphere in FirstEnergy Stadium worse.
“It’s difficult,” Chudzinski said. “I understand the fans, the perspective and where they’re coming from on things. At the end of the day he’s a Cleveland Brown and we need him to win and to help us win. I know that that’s how the team feels about him.”
Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said he has “always been behind Brandon from Day One” and sympathizes with him being singled out as a reason the Browns have dropped from the playoff race.
“You could hear the boos around the stadium, but you have to block that out,” Jackson said. “That comes with the territory. He plays a tough position. He takes all the credit when you win, and unfortunately he takes all the credit (blame) when you lose.
“I’m more than confident he can get it done. If he’s up or if Jason’s up, it doesn’t matter to me who is back there. I know both guys are more than capable enough to help us win.”
Jackson’s positive comments were not surprising. After all, he’s a team captain, leader and perhaps the most respected player in Cleveland’s locker room.
However, following Sunday’s game, both cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward made remarks that seemed to indicate a possible divide among the Browns.
Haden said there was a sense of deflation when Campbell went to the sideline the first time, and Ward bemoaned the team’s four turnovers and offensive struggles.
“I’m tired of losing, that’s it,” Ward said.
Chudzinski was aware of Ward’s comments and understands that some of his players are disappointed and angry. But with five games left, he can’t allow any dissension.
“Guys who aren’t frustrated or like losing, we don’t want here anyhow,” he said. “I talked to the team about the importance of us sticking together and this is the time when those frustrations come out, when you don’t have as much success in a game that you want to have. We have a lot of football left to play this season.”
Jackson said Ward, in the final year of his contract, probably wishes he had chosen his words more wisely.
“I’m sure he regrets it,” Jackson said. “He was speaking out of frustration. T.J. is a team guy. He wants everyone to do well.”