BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Dwayne Bowe and Duke Johnson finally got off their bikes and into the huddle.
The wide receiver and rookie running back, both expected to be two of Cleveland’s top playmakers this season, returned to practice Saturday after missing much of training camp with hamstring injuries. Bowe and Johnson sat out the first two exhibition games but remain hopeful they’ll be on the field Saturday when the Browns play in Tampa Bay.
For the past two weeks, Bowe and Johnson spent a portion of practice riding stationary bikes with other injured teammates, including Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden and Terrelle Pryor, the former NFL quarterback trying to make Cleveland’s roster as a wide receiver.
Following Saturday’s practice, Browns coach Mike Pettine said Pryor, who first hurt his hamstring on Aug. 4 and then aggravated the injury earlier this week when Cleveland trained in Rochester, New York, with Buffalo, is running out of time to solidify a job.
“He’s not guaranteed a spot,” Pettine said. “He’s got to play and that window narrows every day he’s not out there. I know he’s getting close but until he’s out there taking those reps … the good thing about it he’s been very engaged mentally, he knows what to do. That’s just part of it, he’s got to show it physically.”
Bowe doesn’t know when he got hurt. But the 30-year-old, who signed with the Browns as a free agent in March after eight seasons in Kansas City, said the missed practice won’t set him back.
“Never,” he said. “I’m a football player. Those two weeks were just time off to heal my body to get ready for the regular season.”
The Browns signed Bowe to try and offset the loss of No. 1 wide receiver Josh Gordon, who is serving a one-year NFL suspension for multiple drug violations. Bowe has scored 44 career touchdowns, but he didn’t get in the end zone last season, a stain on his resume he can’t change but doesn’t want to duplicate.
Bowe understands there’s an outside perception the Browns lack offensive weapons, but the former Pro Bowler believes Cleveland has the necessary pieces.
“I’m very, very confident,” he said. “We have a talented core, our group. All it takes is time. We’ll let the doubters doubt. When we get on this field and work, we know what we’ve got as a team, the chemistry. When Week 1 comes around, we’re going to show a lot of doubters how a high-powered offense really moves.”
Johnson is expected to have a prominent role this season, but Miami’s career rushing leader can’t help if he isn’t healthy. He’s had nagging hamstring issues since high school, a medical history that has not worry the Browns.
Johnson said that while he was out he stayed engaged during meetings and spent more time studying Cleveland’s new offense, which has similarities to the schemes used by the Hurricanes. And as for the big plans the Browns have for him, Johnson said bring it on.
“I’m looking forward to it, I’m excited,” he said. “The time me being out didn’t really hurt because I stayed in my playbook, I made sure I understand what I have when I have it, just in case coach wants to do anything special with me.”
While Johnson dismissed his time away, Pettine said it’s vital for the third-round pick to see game action before the Sept. 13 opener against the New York Jets.
“He looked really good for us when we were in shorts throughout the spring. He needs some live reps,” Pettine said. “That’s asking a lot of a rookie to put him out there week one with minimal full speed, full contact reps with the particular units. These next two weeks are big for Duke.”
NOTES: QB Connor Shaw recently underwent surgery to repair ligaments in his right thumb and could be out for the season. Pettine said the team is discussing its options for Shaw, who could be placed on injured reserve. He started the season finale in 2014. … QB Josh McCown seemed to throw the ball without any trouble after jamming his right ring finger in Thursday’s loss to Buffalo.
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