BEREA, Ohio -- Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden's injured right thumb will not require surgery, and he could be back on the field sooner than expected.
Assuming, that is, coach Rob Chudzinski decides to put him out there.
Weeden visited a hand specialist on Thursday and was told there no further damage and that he doesn't need an operation. Chudzinski said it was "highly unlikely" Weeden will need surgery and that his status will be re-evaluated next week.
"As soon as he's cleared we'll have to evaluate what status he is, whether he's 100 per cent or 80 or 90," he said Friday. "We'll play it by ear as it goes."
Weeden was not available for comment. As practice wrapped up inside the team's indoor field house, Weeden, wearing a black immobilizing brace on his right hand, shagged footballs as quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell took turns trying to hit the goal post's crossbar from 50 yards.
Weeden injured his thumb in the fourth quarter of last week's 14-6 loss at Baltimore. He smashed his thumb on the helmet of left guard John Greco while throwing a pass and had to leave the game for treatment and X-rays. Campbell played the Browns' final offensive series as they dropped to 0-2.
On Wednesday, Chudzinski surprisingly named Hoyer, who had been listed as Cleveland's No. 3 quarterback since the start of training camp, as his starter for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. Chudzinski said he picked Hoyer over Campbell because "where we're at offensively now, the things that the does well fits what we need."
Chudzinski then added that Weeden's starting job was not guaranteed when he returned, yet another startling development later trumped by the Browns trading star running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round draft pick next year.
Weeden seemed stunned to learn his job wouldn't be waiting for him when he got back, and the second-year QB tried to downplay the significance of Chudzinski's comments.
"I don't worry about that stuff," he said.
Chudzinski said Friday that he has spoken to Weeden about the situation and the 29-year-old understands the situation. Chudzinski said even if Weeden returns earlier than expected, it would have no bearing on which quarterback plays.
"Well, not really," Chudzinski said. "We're just going to take it week by week and see where he's at and where we're at. He's played two games, I'd love to see more of him."
Weeden has completed 47 of 86 passes for 516 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He has never gotten the full support from Cleveland's new regime, which may have shown its intent to draft a quarterback in the first round next year by dealing Richardson for a future pick. The Browns will have 10 selections next year, enough ammunition to move up in the draft if needed.
NOTES: Former Browns president Mike Holmgren criticized the team's decision to deal Richardson. In a radio interview, Holmgren said he would quit as coach if his team traded its best offensive player. "Philosophically, if I am the coach and someone came in anywhere and did that, I'd say 'OK, fire me, or I'm going to quit. Or we're going to both go into the owner and talk about this and then we'll see who's still standing."' Current Browns CEO Joe Banner fired back at Holmgren. "Mike's entitled to his opinion," Banner said in a radio interview. "He ran the team for three years and was able to do what he believed in. It's our turn trying to do what we think is right. Obviously we wouldn't have done this if we agreed with his comments." ... RB Willis McGahee, signed this week, will play Sunday when the Browns meet the Vikings, Chudzinski confirmed Friday.