BEREA — Receiver David Nelson suffered a setback Thursday as he tries to return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Nelson, who only started practicing last week and was slowly working into team drills, was bothered by his surgically repaired right knee while running routes and stopped practicing. He iced the knee and had it wrapped as he left the field following practice.
“He felt his knee a little bit,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I don’t think it was anything major. We will get that checked and report back tomorrow.”
Nelson suffered the torn ACL during the 2012 opener while playing with Buffalo. He signed with the Browns as a free agent in the offseason and would add size (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) and depth if he can get healthy.
He was unable to participate in offseason practice as he rehabbed the knee. He began training camp on the active physically unable to perform list, but began doing individual drills Friday, the second day of camp.
Nelson, 26, made 17 starts in three seasons with the Bills. He has 94 career catches for 1,042 yards, an 11.1 average and eight touchdowns.
His best year was 2011, when he started 13 of 16 games with 61 catches, 658 yards, a 10.8 average and five touchdowns.
The Browns got some good news at receiver as Josh Gordon returned to practice. He did individual drills and was limited in team drills.
Gordon had been bothered by tendinitis in his knee. He left practice early Monday and didn’t practice Wednesday.
• Strong safety T.J. Ward sat out with a tight hamstring. Undrafted rookie Josh Aubrey filled in for Ward with the first-team defense and continued to impress the coaches.
• Running back Montario Hardesty (hamstring) was out again after practicing Wednesday.
• Free safety Tashaun Gipson (shoulder) was limited in his return.
• Offensive lineman Ryan Miller (concussion), cornerback Trevin Wade (undisclosed) and offensive lineman Oniel Cousins (ankle) didn’t practice.
Defensive end Desmond Bryant was back in team drills on a limited basis as he returns from back spasms.
“I’ve been trying to get treatment, trying to get better, trying to get back out there as much has possible,” he said. “It’s not completely done, but with the treatment I’m getting I’ll be fine.”
Bryant signed a five-year, $34 million contract in the offseason after four years in Oakland. He’s a fan of coordinator Ray Horton’s defense, and the man himself.
“He’s a great guy. He really loves defense. He really loves his job, and he also listens to our perspectives,” Bryant said. “The other day I think Phil (Taylor, nose tackle) came up with a defense that he actually put in for us.”
Pushing and shoving
While the rest of the team finishes the 2½-hour practices with a seven-on-seven drill, the offensive and defensive linemen retreat to another field and battle in one-on-one pass-rushing drills. So it’s no surprise things got heated Thursday.
The largest scrap involved rookie guard Garrett Gilkey and third-year defensive end Brian Sanford.
Gilkey grabbed Sanford’s jersey as he tried to block him and took him to the ground. Sanford got up, but Gilkey grabbed his leg and appeared to try to take him down again.
Sanford responded by grabbing Gilkey’s long hair, then ripping off Gilkey’s helmet and tossing it away. Center Alex Mack quickly rushed into the fray and coaches separated the players.
Sanford was in the middle of a skirmish on the first day of camp and always seems to be in the middle of the trouble.
“He’s a scrappy guy. He’s very competitive,” Chudzinski said. “He’s a full-speed-every-snap guy. He’s been productive in his pass rushes. He’s a guy that is out there competing and trying to make a move.
“I like seeing guys that are competitive and tough.”
Practice and lasers
Chudzinski said the Family Night session Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium will be a normal practice.
“With our install and how tight it is in terms of the number of days before the game, we have to get some things done more so than opening up for a scrimmage-type situation,” he said. “That is not a lot of time between now and Thursday.”
The Browns open the preseason Thursday night at home against St. Louis.
Chudzinski will try to make Family Night more exciting with situations drills and some periods where the offense operates as if it’s on a drive, rather than just a series of independent plays. The players will be in full pads.
Family Night is a free, non-ticketed event and starts at 6:30, but Alfred Lerner Way will open at 4:30 with family friendly activities, including games, music and inflatables. The Radio Disney Road Crew and the Duncan Yo-Yo Professionals will perform. The gates to the stadium will open up at 5:30 p.m.
A full-team autograph session will follow practice. A laser and fireworks show will cap the evening at 9:30.
Jason Pinkston worked at first-team left guard for the first time during camp. Normal starter John Greco worked at center with the second team.
• Safety Johnson Bademosi was first up at kick returner and dropped the first kick. Cornerback Buster Skrine, receiver Travis Benjamin and running back Dion Lewis followed.
• Former Browns tight end Bobby Crespino died Monday in Atlanta following a lengthy illness, The Associated Press reported. He was 75.
Crespino was selected No. 10 in the first round in 1961 and played three seasons with Cleveland before joining the Giants for five.
• NFL officials worked practice, and referee Ed Hochuli is expected to join them today.
• The Browns and SportsTime Ohio announced a multiyear television agreement that will feature exclusive Browns programming.
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