June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Browns notes: Cleveland players fire back at Steelers

BEREA — Earlier this week, Steelers tackle Max Starks accused the Browns’ defensive line of making illegal cut-blocks during Cleveland’s 20-14 home victory on Sunday afternoon.

“Cleveland came up with some creative things, (like) cutting offensive linemen,” Starks told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, specifically accusing right end Frostee Rucker of the tactic.

Jon Gruden

On Wednesday, the Browns fired back with some accusations of their own against the Steelers.

“If anything, I got cut a lot by them in that game,” defensive end Jabaal Sheard said. “In fact, (Pittsburgh right tackle Mike Adams) got me when he got the holding call against him. He cut me, then grabbed me and put his arms around me, and dragged me to the ground.

“That’s not right, and I don’t think plays like that should be part of the sport.”

Starks and Rucker have played their entire NFL careers in the same division. Starks is in his ninth season with the Steelers, while Rucker played six years for Cincinnati before signing with Cleveland in the spring.

Rucker appeared taken aback by the claim, pointing out that Pittsburgh was whistled for nine penalties, including five offensive holding flags.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I’ve played for seven years and I’ve never heard that. A defensive line cutting? What does that mean? We just wanted it more than they did.

“We didn’t say anything about holding or anything like that. We don’t come here with excuses when we lose games. We say that we need to make more plays.”

Defensive tackle Phil Taylor also hinted that Starks’ remarks were nothing more than sour grapes, saying, “Maybe somebody fell or something and caught their leg at some time in the game. The officials did call a lot of holding penalties on them, so maybe they’re just mad about that.”

While Browns coach Pat Shurmur strongly denied that his players utilize the dangerous technique — “We don’t teach any of that stuff” — Sheard said there was a bigger issue involved.

“The NFL has done a lot of stuff with concussions and player safety, which is a great step, but I thought they also should have outlawed cut-blocks,” the second-year pro said.

“It should have been done in the last (labor negotiations) because that’s how you get blown out knees and careers get ended. I’m just glad they’re talking about doing it now because plays like that put all of us on the line at risk.”

Injury update

Wide receiver Joshua Cribbs (right shoulder), and safeties Ray “Bubba” Ventrone (calf) and Usama Young (concussion) did not practice as the Browns’ focus shifted to their Sunday game at the Oakland Raiders.

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (left high ankle sprain), fullback Alex Smith (chest, ribs) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (concussion) were limited. It was Patterson’s first practice since being hurt on Oct. 7 at the Giants.

“This was the first time I’ve pretty much felt pain free on Monday and Tuesday, but I’m curious to see how I’m going to feel in the morning,” Patterson said.

“When I come back, I don’t want to be a liability, I want to be an asset — and I feel like I can be with the way I felt today out on the field.”

Full participants were Rucker (shoulder, finger), running back Trent Richardson (finger, torn rib cartilage), safety T.J. Ward (knee), cornerback Johnson Bademosi (hip, shin), tight end Jordan Cameron (groin) and guard Shawn Lauvao (arm).

• For the Raiders, not practicing were defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring), defensive end Jack Crawford (toe) and linebackers Miles Burris (illness) and Rolando McClain (personal reasons).

Running backs Darren McFadden (ankle), Mike Goodson (ankle) and Taiwan Jones (ankle) were limited, but coach Dennis Allen indicated all three are likely to join fullback Marcel Reece in the backfield against the Browns.

Reece (hamstring, quadriceps) and safety Tyvon Branch (neck) took part in all team activities.

Liar, liar

The Browns reacted quickly to shoot down a story by WREG-TV 3 in Memphis about the University of Tennessee’s quest for a new football coach.

The NBC affiliate claimed Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam III had offered Jon Gruden a small share of the Browns in order to entice him to leave ESPN for the Volunteers.

“Jimmy Haslam has no involvement in the University of Tennessee head coaching search, and the report that Jon Gruden would potentially have an ownership stake in the Browns is completely erroneous,” team spokesman Neal Gulkis said.

•Another erroneous report said the Browns had made a waiver claim on ex-Eagles defensive end Jason Babin. The only franchises that actually did so were Jacksonville, Buffalo and Washington — as listed in the NFL’s official transaction report to teams.

Weekly honor

Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his nine-tackle performance against the Steelers. Cleveland’s defensive captain also forced one fumble and recovered another in winning the first weekly honor of his seven-year NFL career.

“The most important thing was getting a win against a rival and for the city of Cleveland,” Jackson said. “They deserved it. I know it’s been a rocky year for everybody, but to get a win makes it a little bit better. It was great for the community and great for the young guys in this locker room to beat Pittsburgh.”

Jackson was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in September 2011. The last Cleveland player to take home weekly honors was linebacker David Bowens in 2010.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.