June 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Browns notes: Running back Brandon Jackson works with starters, while Montario Hardesty sits out practice

BEREA — Running back Montario Hardesty had a sleeve on his right calf and didn’t participate in team drills Sunday afternoon. He was replaced by Brandon Jackson with the first-team offense.

“I’m good. Gave me a little rest today,” said Hardesty, who was slowed by a torn right calf muscle last season. “I’m good, I’m good.”

The change in practice routine came in the first practice following Hardesty’s second fumble in two weeks, this one in a loss to the Eagles. Both led to touchdowns by the opponent.

Coach Pat Shurmur was asked before practice if Jackson might move ahead of Hardesty on the depth chart.

“They are always competing and we had a big meeting last night lining them up,” he said. “I think both guys have impressed me in a lot of ways this training camp.

“I will say this, running backs that fumble, if you do it on a consistent basis, it’s tough to put you in the game. That’s just the way it is.”

Hardesty, who went through individual drills, didn’t view Sunday as a demotion.

“No, I didn’t practice today,” he said. “So, no, not at all.”

Jackson was signed as a free agent from Green Bay in 2011 but missed the whole season with a toe injury. He said he was told during practice to join the starters.

“I don’t want to jump the gun, but it feels good to be out there with the ones,” he said.

The focus on the running back position is sharper with No. 3 overall draft pick Trent Richardson sidelined following arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 9. He has yet to return to the practice field, but Shurmur believes he’ll be back for the regular-season opener Sept. 9.

“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “He is making great progress. He’ll be out there soon.”

After his fumble on the first play in Green Bay, Hardesty said he hadn’t lost a fumble since high school. Now he’s on a bad streak. On Friday, he was drilled by linebacker Ryan Rau and lost the handle.

“I’m not a fumbler,” Hardesty said. “The guy made a good play on the ball this game. I kind of cut back, he hit me right on the hand. He made a good play, but I’ve gotta hold onto the ball.

“So I came out today and did some extra drills with Coach (Gary) Brown and we’re gonna move past that. That’s not my M.O. to be a fumbler. I’m not gonna let it bother me. I’m gonna make sure that I don’t do it anymore.”

Holding onto the ball is one of Jackson’s strengths. He didn’t fumble in 457 touches in his four seasons in Green Bay.

“I was always taught to hold the ball to your chest and protect it. You just don’t want to give that opportunity up,” he said. “When you are going through traffic two hands on the ball and when you get into open field keep it high and tight.”

Jackson said he didn’t need surgery on the toe last year and is back to being himself. He thinks he could fill the void if Richardson isn’t ready to start the season.

“I feel like I could go out there and do everything they want him to do,” he said.

Praise for Colt

The future remains uncertain for backup quarterback Colt McCoy, who could be traded before the season. But if he stays, it sounds like he’ll be No. 2 behind rookie starter Brandon Weeden.

“He’s done an outstanding job here in training camp,” Shurmur said. “I’m very pleased with where he’s at. And I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for him and the way he competed, the way he’s handled the situation — let’s just call it that — and I’m very impressed with how he’s doing and I think that’s good for our team.”

McCoy lost the starting job to Weeden, but has been effective in the preseason. He is 18-for-24 for 234 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions in three games.

“He understands one of the primary things you need to understand as a backup at this point — be ready to play because you’re an ankle injury from being in there,” Shurmur said.

Shurmur said he won’t reveal his plans for the Nos. 2 and 3 quarterbacks until the final cut to 53 Friday night. McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Thaddeus Lewis are competing for the two spots.

Injury report

Defensive end Marcus Benard left the Eagles game with a dislocated left elbow and wasn’t on the practice field Sunday.

“He dislocated his elbow and they fixed it,” Shurmur said. “We’ll just see how quickly he’ll progress.”

• Safety Usama Young (hamstring) returned to practice for the first time since Aug. 2.

• Defensive tackle Brian Schaefering wasn’t on the field. He left the game in the second half with an undisclosed injury.

• Others missing from practice were running back Chris Ogbonnaya, offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, linebacker Emmanuel Acho and cornerback Antwuan Reed.

• Linebacker Scott Fujita (knee) didn’t practice, but ran sprints on the sideline. He is in a bulky brace but looked good running in a straight line.

• Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and defensive tackle Scott Paxson (knee) were on the stationary bike. They had been absent from the practice field since the Detroit game Aug. 10. They joined tight end Benjamin Watson (undisclosed), safety Bubba Ventrone (hamstring) and defensive tackle Phil Taylor (pectoral).

Mitchell cut

Nine players were waived before practice, reducing the roster to 80. The Browns must be down to 75 by 4 p.m. today.

Receiver Carlton Mitchell was the biggest name on the cut list. He was a sixth-round pick in 2010 but his production never matched his physical skills (6-foot-3, 215 pounds). He was beset with injuries and had three catches in 16 games in two years.

Mitchell suffered a leg injury early in training camp this year and missed significant time.

“He was one of the guys that we were hopeful that he could show us everything that he could do,” Shurmur said. “Unfortunately in the last couple of years he’s dealt with injuries. I have a lot of respect for Carlton. He’s flashed and done some things here, but again we’ve got to make hard decisions and unfortunately he’s not with us anymore.”

The others who were waived were receivers Bert Reed, Jermaine Saffold and Owen Spencer, offensive linemen Jake Anderson and Matt Cleveland, defensive back Emanuel Davis, linebacker JoJo Dickson and punter Spencer Lanning.

Extra points

Shurmur said he wouldn’t say “one thing different” from his postgame assessment of the loss to the Eagles.

“When you play a good team, you’ve got to play your best,” he said. “And any team you play, if you give it to them with turnovers and kicking game issues and I don’t think we played with the same emotion that we played with when we played Green Bay.”

• Weeden and McCoy led successful two-minute drills. Trailing by two points and starting on the 35-yard line, both set up Phil Dawson winning field goals. Dawson made it from 53 yards for the first team and 39 yards for the second team. Rookie running back Adonis Thomas picked up chunks of yardage for the second team on a catch-and-run and a draw.

• Veteran defensive end Juqua Parker and rookie offensive lineman Ryan Miller got into a little scrap. “That’s not the guy you want to do that with,” Fujita said of Parker.

• Rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn continued to work with the starters.

• The Browns switched from training camp schedule to their regular-season format. They will practice from 1-3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and earlier on Fridays.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.