BEREA – Brandon Jackson was signed by the Browns as an insurance policy, just in case one of their top two running backs was injured.
Ironically, Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty both made it through the preseason healthy, while the former Green Bay starter did not.
Jackson was placed on season-ending injured reserve Saturday with a severe case of turf toe as Cleveland reduced its active roster to the NFL regular-season limit of 53.
The Browns also released 26 players, including third-string quarterback Jarrett Brown, wide receiver Demetrius Williams, cornerback Coye Francies, running back Quinn Porter and offensive linemen Branndon Braxton and Phil Trautwein.
“I talked to some of them, and the message was they did a fine job while they were here,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “Unfortunately, we can’t keep everybody, so I told them keep working hard and keep the dream alive.
“That was the message, continue to work and continue to be ready, so when you get a phone call (from an NFL team), you’re ready to go.”
Though Cleveland general manager Tom Heckert and Shurmur are expected to scour the waiver wire over the next 24 hours seeking additional help, their initial wave of moves were telling.
They revealed that Armond Smith won the battle for the third RB spot over Porter, while another undrafted rookie, James Dockery, bumped former sixth-round pick Francies off the squad.
Dockery Tweeted, “It’s official I made it! Officially a Brown!!!! God is Great!,” shortly before Cleveland announced its first 17 cuts in the morning.
Guard Jarrod Shaw also went online to announce that Smith had made the squad and indicated he did, as well. Shaw was among nine players released later in the evening.
“This day is hard on the position coaches, it’s hard on me, but we have a process that we go through,” Shurmur said. “There is a potential that somebody that we’ve released could be back with us here within days.
“We’ve foreshadowed this by looking at rosters and seeing where guys fit (around the league). We even have a list of guys that we would highlight to bring in, even though maybe their fate hasn’t been finally sealed.”
Defensive tackle Scott Paxson and defensive end Auston English also avoided the ax, along with Alex Smith, who made the Browns as their fourth tight end for the second year in a row.
On the flip side were the releases of Braxton and Trautwein, who had spent most of training camp working on the first and second teams.
“There are a lot of decisions that go into who we keep and why,” Shurmur said. “Just because a guy gets a lot of reps doesn’t necessarily mean you can look out and say he’s a guy that will be here.”
Rounding out Cleveland’s morning cuts were wide receivers L.J. Castile and Chris Matthews; defensive linemen Travis Ivey, Ko Quaye and Andre Carroll; offensive lineman Calton Ford; tight end Evan Frosch; defensive backs DeAngelo Smith, Ramzee Robinson and Carl Gettis; and linebackers Eric Gordon, Sidney Tarver and Steve Octavien.
Also released just before the 6 p.m. deadline were fullback Tyler Clutts, wide receiver Rod Windsor, linebackers Brian Smith and Archie Donald, offensive lineman Dominic Alford and defensive lineman Brian Sanford.
Moore, Moore, Moore
Tight end Evan Moore was all smiles a day after agreeing to a two-year, $6 million contract extension. He would have become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but is now under contract through 2013.
“Like you’d think, it feels really good,” the 26-year-old said after practice. “It honestly seems like yesterday I was sitting at home, going undrafted, wondering if I was going to get a shot to play in this league.
“It is truly a blessing to be here talking about this today.”
Moore joined Cleveland in 2009 after being released by Green Bay and New Orleans.
Despite suffering two concussions in the last 11 months, the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder is expected to play a large role in the team’s new West Coast Offense.
“I feel very comfortable here and I like playing for Coach Shurmur,” Moore said. “I like my teammates. I like this organization.”
Linebacker Chris Gocong (neck stinger) and tight end Benjamin Watson (hip) did not practice, but rode the exercise bikes outside.
Linebacker Titus Brown (ankle), and safety Eric Hagg (knee) did not step onto the field, but were not placed on IR, indicating they will return sooner rather than later.
Shurmur said he expected Watson and wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (ankle) to be in uniform Monday at practice – and available to play in the season opener Sept. 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.