NFL

Browns QB Weeden cleared to practice; likely to start Sunday

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Associated Press
11/28/2012 2:24:33 PM
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BEREA, Ohio -- Although his mind was jumbled, Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden knew exactly where he was -- and it wasn't where he wanted to be.

Still in his uniform, but without his helmet after being forced out with a concussion in the final minutes on Sunday, Weeden turned to the team doctors in Cleveland's locker room and begged them to let him go back to the sideline to see the final snaps of a 20-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

They wouldn't budge, so he watched on TV.

"It was frustrating. I wanted to finish that one," Weeden said. "But it was nice to celebrate with the guys after the game."

Weeden was cleared to practice Wednesday, three days after sustaining the first concussion of his football career. The 29-year-old was limited during the workout but he will start this week when the Browns (3-8) visit the Oakland Raiders and try to snap a 12-game road losing streak.

Weeden didn't appear to have any restrictions during the portion of practice open to the media. He threw passes with the customary zip on the ball and moved around without any problems. Afterward, Weeden said he's been symptom free for several days.

As tough as it was for him to leave only Cleveland's second win in 18 games over the rival Steelers, Weeden knew it was the right decision. He had banged his head on teammate Joe Thomas' leg after throwing an interception and was slow getting up.

Once he was on the sideline, Weeden was examined by the Browns medical staff and answered all their mandatory questions to test for a concussion. However, Weeden told them he didn't "feel right" and was taken to the locker room for further tests.

Backup quarterback Colt McCoy came off the bench to close out Cleveland's win, playing the final two series as the Browns tried to run out the clock. It was an ironic twist for McCoy, whose 2011 season ended when he suffered a serious concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison.

Weeden knows he may have been able to talk his way into staying in the game, but he could have endangered his health.

"You've got to be smart about it," he said. "You're talking about a brain. I don't want to be 50 years old and not remember playing in the NFL. I'd much rather sit out five minutes of a game than risk the long-term effect."

With eliminating head injuries a league priority, Weeden said it's critical for players to take it upon themselves to protect their health. The league has a strict protocol to follow once a player sustains a concussion, and Weeden feels the most important step is to be truthful.

"You just have to be honest," he said. "There's several steps you've got to work out. You've got to run, you've got to do some tests, you've got to do some things. There's a long laundry list of things you've got to do, but the main thing is just be honest and tell them what your symptoms are and tell them how you feel. They have to kind of trust you and you have to pass the test with flying colours."

Someone on the Browns' sideline took his helmet when he left the game, but Weeden doesn't think it was hidden so he couldn't go back in.

"I never want to come out of a game," he said. "I'm too competitive and I felt like I'd been hit a lot harder than I got hit. So I felt like I could still play. They always take my helmet when I come off and trade me out for a hat and jacket, so I don't know if they hid it from me. If they did, they did a great job."

Weeden has been sleeping fine since the injury, and Tuesday night he felt well enough to attend an NBA game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns.

Unless Weeden has an unexpected setback, Browns coach Pat Shurmur said the 29-year-old will make his 12th straight start on Sunday. McCoy may get a few more snaps with the starting offence during practice this week so he's ready, but he won't take any away from Weeden.

"For the most part you get the starter ready to go," Shurmur said. "At this point, this early in the week he's healthy, so he goes."

Weeden finished 17 of 26 for 158 yards with a touchdown before getting hurt in his first career start against Pittsburgh's defence, which remains ranked No. 1 overall. He also bounced back after having his third pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

He's thrown 12 TD passes and 13 interceptions, and Weeden's 55.9 completion percentage is 32nd in the league as is his 70.9 rating. Weeden has endured criticism from some who think the Browns have yet to find their future quarterback.

Shurmur, though, is only focused on Weeden delivering wins.

"What's important for Brandon is to play a style of quarterback that leads us to victories," he said. "That's what he needs to do. We could talk about yards, we could talk about all that other stuff, all the ways you want to rank certain things, but his game needs to constantly improve and he's got to strive to get us in the end zone and help us win football games.

"That's that."

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NOTES: Browns DE Frostee Rucker dismissed Steelers OT Max Starks' claim that Cleveland's defensive lineman were going at the legs of Pittsburgh's offensive front. "I don't understand it," Rucker said. "I've played for seven years. I never heard that. A defensive line cutting? What does that mean? We just made the plays to win the game." ... The Browns denied a report that owner Jimmy Haslam has offered TV analyst and former NFL coach Jon Gruden a stake in the team if he accepted a job to coach at Tennessee. ... KR Josh Cribbs did not practice with what the team listed as a "shoulder/chest" injury suffered against the Steelers. He was not in the locker room during the interview period. ... Browns S Usama Young also remains sidelined with a concussion. ... CB Dimitri Patterson practiced and could play this week after missing six games with a severe ankle injury.

Brandon Weeden  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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