Injuries, NFL inquiry has Browns quarterback situation messy

Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) congratulates Johnny Manziel (2) after Manziel threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Shane Wynn during the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the Buffalo Bills, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) congratulates Johnny Manziel (2) after Manziel threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Shane Wynn during the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the Buffalo Bills, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

BEREA, Ohio (AP) – Their starter has a sore shoulder, bruised ribs and who knows what other ailments. Their backup could be facing NFL discipline.

The Browns’ quarterback situation – always convoluted – is even more of a mess.

With Josh McCown unable to throw because of a right shoulder injury sustained last week when he was roughed up in St. Louis, the Browns don’t know yet if he’ll be able to start Sunday when they host Arizona. And McCown’s injury isn’t the team’s only QB concern.

Johnny Manziel, who replaced McCown in the fourth quarter against the Rams, met Wednesday evening with league investigators, who are looking into whether he violated the personal conduct policy during an Oct. 12 argument with his girlfriend. According to an Avon, Ohio, police report, Colleen Crowley accused Manziel of hitting her and pushing her head against his car’s window during their argument.

Manziel was not in the locker room during the time it was open to reporters following the workout, but the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner was seen in a hallway neat the entrance to the team’s facility.

Coach Mike Pettine confirmed the league hopes to have its inquiry wrapped up quickly.

“There’s a sense of urgency to it,” said Pettine, who was asked if he was confident Manziel would be available for Sunday’s game. “We’ll just wait and see. The league has its protocol on how they handle these situations, and we’ve been ultra-cooperative to date and will continue to be.”

The league could fine or suspend Manziel if it feels he violated its personal conduct policy, which was revised and strengthened last year following the high-profile case involving former Ravens running back Ray Rice.

Investigators have already spoken with the police officers who were at the scene of Manziel’s incident, which began on a busy interstate highway and ended on a gravel driveway. Manziel told police that he and Crowley had been drinking alcohol before their fight. He denied striking Crowley and police determined he was not intoxicated before allowing him to drive Crowley home.

As they wait for a possible ruling on Manziel, the second-year QB took snaps with Cleveland’s first-team offense Wednesday as McCown watched from the sideline while wearing a baseball cap.

McCown said he’s feeling better and had hoped to test his shoulder and ribs by throwing before heading home. The 36-year-old was sacked four times by the Rams – he’s been sacked 21 times in the past five games – and also took a vicious shot to the chin before finally staggering to the sideline.

“He looked how we all felt,” said Pettine, who has been impressed by the veteran’s resilience and durability. “It is amazing what a couple days off will do for you to get you back going. Afterwards, it didn’t look good, and when you watch the tape, he took some unnecessary hits, but as we all know, he is as tough as nails.”

McCown has taken more than his share of hard knocks in 13 seasons. There isn’t a week when something isn’t hurting, and McCown forced a smile when asked how long it takes after a season for his body to feel “normal.”

“In February,” he said. “It’s part of the job description.”

Pettine made it clear that if McCown is healthy, he’ll play. While there’s a vocal segment of Browns fans who would rather see the team play Manziel to see if he can be their long-term answer at quarterback, Pettine is sticking with McCown, who has played better than expected but isn’t winning.

McCown said Pettine’s faith in him means a great deal.

“I can understand both sides of it and I understand the situation I’m in,” McCown said. “We drafted Johnny in the first round for a reason. At some point that time will come to see what he can do, but for me, that’s not my decision and that’s not what I get caught up worrying about.

“I focus on being ready to play and getting myself healthy and getting ready to play against the Cardinals. That’s where my mind’s at.”

NOTES: Browns Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden returned to practice after missing two games with a concussion. S Tashaun Gipson also returned. He missed the past three games with an ankle injury. … Rookie RB Duke Johnson was excused from practice for personal reasons.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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