BEREA — T.J. Ward has been the Browns’ starting strong safety since the first game of his rookie season in 2010.
However, Ward will not be in uniform tonight when Cleveland takes on the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder also was held out of the Browns’ preseason opener last week against St. Louis.
“There is nothing wrong with T.J., we just want to be smart about it and get him ready for the season,” Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski said Wednesday. “He’s been working all week long and I feel good about him.”
A hamstring injury prevented Ward from participating in team drills earlier in training camp, but he was on the field every day this week.
Chudzinski is being extra careful with the hard hitter from Oregon, though, because the Browns are very thin at his position. Undrafted rookies Josh Aubrey and Kenronte Walker and Arena Football League refugee Kent Richardson are the other strong safeties on the roster.
“I want to go out and see these guys in different situations that come up and how they compete and react in those situations,” Chudzinski said.
Another secondary situation to watch is at right cornerback, where Chris Owens and Buster Skrine are battling for starting honors.
Owens (strained foot arch) worked with the first team during Cleveland’s late morning practice, but Skrine filled in admirably there in recent days. The Browns signed Owens to a one-year contract in free agency from the Atlanta Falcons on March 22.
“Both of those guys have really shown a lot, but as I’ve mentioned before, it’s not about winning one position,” Chudzinski said. “It’s about showing that you can play, then we will find a place for you.”
Browns tackle Chris Faulk underwent arthroscopic right knee surgery on Monday, which likely has him ticketed for season-ending injured reserve. Chudzinski didn’t reveal news of the operation until a reporter asked why Faulk was not at practice for the second day in a row. The undrafted rookie from Louisiana State tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the same knee during his senior season. The 6-foot-6, 323-pounder was unable to practice at any point during training camp, but remains an intriguing long-term prospect.
• Cornerback Leon McFadden (groin strain) returned to practice, but Chudzinski said he was unlikely to play against Detroit. Wide receivers Jordan Norwood (hamstring) and David Nelson (knee) did not practice and are out.
• Punter T.J. Conley (groin strain), who played in all 16 games with the New York Jets in 2011, will be a game-time decision. Conley averaged 40.0 yards on two punts against the Rams, while challenger Spencer Lanning averaged 45.0 yards with a touchback on his two kicks.
Motor City madness
Lions kicker Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland — the YouTube sensation from Norway — made 49- and 50-yard field goals Friday during Detroit’s 26-17 home win over the Jets. Rugland was given a tryout by the Browns during the offseason, but they did not offer him a contract.
“He is a raw guy with ability and did a fairly good job,” Chudzinski said. “I think we were just sorting through exactly what we were going to do at that point with our kicking situation.”
Barring an injury, veteran David Akers will be the Lions’ kicker in the regular season.
• Detroit’s fourth-string quarterback is Thaddeus Lewis, who started the Browns’ 2012 season finale at Pittsburgh. The Lions claimed the third-year pro off waivers from Cleveland on May 29.
• Browns defensive line coach Joe Cullen held the same job with Detroit from 2006-08. He was suspended for one game in his rookie season after being arrested for visiting the Dearborn, Mich., Wendy’s drive-thru while naked.
The Lions hold a 24-19-1 lead over the Browns in their all-time preseason series. Cleveland was a 19-17 winner in the 2012 Great Lakes Classic at Ford Field.
• Detroit visits FirstEnergy Stadium in Week 6 of the regular season, which will be its first game in Cleveland that counts since 2005.
Quote of the day
“Brandon (Weeden) is taking all the first-team reps, so take that for what it is. I’m not evaluating the quarterbacks, but I’ve got eyes like everyone else does.” — Browns tackle Joe Thomas.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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