CLEVELAND (AP) – The Browns have little time to ice their ample bumps and bruises this week.
The unbeaten, unforgiving Bengals are looming.
With a Thursday night matchup against Cincinnati, Cleveland’s banged-up players – most notably starting quarterback Josh McCown – don’t have the luxury of taking an extra day or two to heal up.
McCown, who has taken a pounding in recent weeks, injured his ribs in the second half of Sunday’s loss to Arizona and it’s not yet known if he’ll be able to face the AFC North’s top team.
Browns coach Mike Pettine would not divulge results of X-rays taken on McCown, who pushed through pain during a 34-20 loss to the Cardinals.
Pettine expects McCown to participate in Tuesday’s walk-through, but said it’s too early to know if the 36-year-old will start Thursday.
“We’ll see how he is in the next couple days,” Pettine said.
It was the same scenario last week, when McCown was limited during the week and backup Johnny Manziel was prepared to possibly start.
But McCown answered the bell again, and stuck it out in the third and fourth quarters despite having difficulty catching his breath after absorbing hard hits.
McCown was doubled over in pain several times, and at one point motioned for Manziel to leave the field when the second-year QB began heading out to replace him.
Pettine said he didn’t consider putting in Manziel, who came in for an injured McCown in the season opener and won his only start in Week 2.
While he’s being criticized for not benching a quarterback now 2-15 as a starter the past two seasons, Pettine has remained unshaken in his belief that McCown gives the Browns their best chance to win.
“I don’t really get too wrapped up in what the outside perception is of our quarterback room, but I just know Josh McCown has done a great job for us.” Pettine said.
“Somebody told me yesterday we’ve had more passing yards in the first half of the year than any other team in Browns history. So he’s doing a good job playing the position. We feel good about where Johnny is and the direction he’s headed. Those are just our circumstances.”
Pettine, too, said that despite his team’s struggles, he has no immediate plans to sit veterans in order to play Manziel or other younger players.
“We’re just not ready to say we’re at that point yet,” he said.
And as if playing the Bengals (7-0) wasn’t challenging enough, the Browns will probably do so without cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner, who both sustained concussions against the Cardinals.
Pettine didn’t rule out either of the former Pro Bowlers, but conceded there may not be enough time for them to be cleared to play.
For Haden, it’s his second concussion in three weeks. He sat out Cleveland’s previous two games with a head injury sustained on Oct. 11 at Baltimore. Pettine couldn’t recall any of his players suffering two concussions so quickly.
The Browns (2-6) have dropped three straight and their season is beginning to collapse the same way so many have in Cleveland over the past decade-plus.
Pettine, though, believes if his team can cut down on mistakes that it can not only compete with the Bengals, but hand them their first loss. He used the example of last season, when Cleveland won in Cincinnati.
“It’s a huge challenge, and I have a feeling a lot of people outside of this building aren’t going to give them much of a chance and to me that’s the beauty of sport,” he said.
“Just like last year, similar circumstances and we went down there and played one of our best games, so we know that when our minds are right and we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and playing at a high level emotionally and physically, then we can play with anybody. We have to go down there with that mentality.”
NOTES: Pettine said the Browns needed to do a better job of getting the ball to rookie RB Duke Johnson, who had two catches for 68 yards in the first half, but just one touch after halftime. “That’s on us as a staff to find more creative ways to get him the football,” Pettine said. … The Browns won 24-3 at Cincinnati to improve to 6-3 last season. … Browns WR Andrew Hawkins remains in concussion protocol. … With Whitner out, rookie Ibraheim Campbell, a fourth-round pick from Northwestern, will start.
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