The Browns’ offense is in disarray following the trade of running back Trent Richardson and the right thumb injury suffered by quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Cleveland’s defense, however, continues to pick up steam and is more than willing to carry the load.
“We’ve had the mentality to put it all on our shoulders all along, so this is no different,” Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said Thursday. “I issued the challenge to our defense to be like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, where they had to shut people down and force turnovers, like the 1985 Chicago Bears. I think it’s a fantastic challenge, which is fine because I love challenges.”
Under Horton’s ultra-aggressive scheme, Cleveland’s defense has not allowed a first-half touchdown through two games. It ranks fourth in the 32-team NFL in stopping the run, sixth in yards allowed and 12th against the pass and in points allowed.
Even more encouraging, defensive end Ahtyba Rubin could make his 2013 debut Sunday when the Browns play at Minnesota. Rubin has been sidelined with a right calf strain since being hurt in a Sept. 5 preseason practice.
“I’m taking the right steps and going through rehab so it doesn’t happen again,” said Rubin, who missed three games with a similar injury last season. “I’m feeling good and doing better, but I want to go out and play at 100 percent. Not 30 percent or 80 percent, but all the way healthy. When that happens, you’ll see me back on Sundays.”
Browns linebacker Quentin Groves (left ankle sprain) and Weeden (right thumb sprain) will not play against the Vikings. Weeden, who was injured against the Ravens when his hand struck a helmet, was examined by a hand specialist Thursday afternoon.
NFL Network reported Weeden will not require surgery and will be re-evaluated early next week. He underwent an MRI, which was negative, on Monday. A team official said coach Rob Chudzinski would update Weeden’s status today.
Guard Shawn Lauvao (left ankle surgery) and Rubin (right calf) were limited in practice, while wide receiver Josh Cooper (right shin), safety T.J. Ward (shoulder), and defensive end Desmond Bryant (wrist) took part in all team activities.
• Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison (knee) has not practiced this week, while safety Harrison Smith (upper arm), linebacker Erin Henderson (heel), center John Sullivan (knee) and defensive tackles Kevin Williams (knee) and Fred Evans (shoulder) were limited. Guard Brandon Fusco (shoulder), tackle Phil Loadholt (knee) and safety Mistral Raymond (shoulder) were full participants.
The Browns and the city of Cleveland issued a statement regarding possible improvements to FirstEnergy Stadium. The facility opened in 1999 and was previously known as Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“We have established a positive relationship, we are working together, and we have had open dialogue regarding the necessary stadium repairs. In its 15th season, the stadium is in obvious need of significant maintenance, similar to any sports venue of comparative age. We are working through our next steps and expect to have a more detailed approach soon.”
Bryant leads the team with 2½ quarterback sacks and ranks third with 14 tackles. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder also has recorded sacks in six straight games, dating back to last season with the Raiders.
“So far, I think I’m playing pretty well, but I’ve definitely left some plays on the field,” said Bryant, who is tied for eighth in the NFL in sacks.
• Right guard Oniel Cousins feels confident the offense won’t be set back by Brian Hoyer playing quarterback. It will be Hoyer’s second NFL start in five pro seasons.
“I think we’re coming together as an offense,” Cousins said. “I don’t think it changes anything. We’re confident with all of our guys.”
Six-time Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas and cornerback Joe Haden did not make themselves available to the media prior to practice. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, the defensive captain, answered questions patiently for 15 minutes.
• The Browns’ odds of winning the Super Bowl shot up from 150-1 to 250-1 following the Richardson trade, according to offshore bookmaker Bovada.
• The Cleveland/Baltimore game drew a 27.3 local television rating and 55 share in Northeast Ohio, ranking 17th among the 30 NFL markets. The same matchup earned a 30.2 and 57 in Greater Baltimore.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.