November 27, 2014

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Browns: McGahee brings confident swagger

BEREA — Coach Rob Chudzinski appreciates the attitude running back Willis McGahee has brought in his week-plus with the Browns.

“Willis has a lot of confidence,” Chudzinski said Monday. “He’s been a winner and he knows what it takes in this league. He brings some of that swagger.”

Apparently, Chudzinski hasn’t seen anything yet.

“It can help. It can loosen guys up once they see how things go,” McGahee said. “When you start winning, everybody’s swagger is gonna change a little bit.

“I’m just easing into it. I’m not trying to be raw, raw, raw right off the bat. You got to earn that. That’s how I wanna do it. Couple touchdowns, couple 100-yard games, then ya know my shirt will be off a little more when I’m doing interviews.”

Chudzinski and McGahee go way back. Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami when McGahee was a star.

That was more than a decade ago. McGahee, 31, has become a grizzled veteran, but still has the ego that comes with time spent at The U.

He was asked about the key 91-yard drive Sunday against the Bengals in which he carried six times for 33 yards.

“I think it showed that I’m here to play,” he said. “I know I ain’t Trent Richardson, but I’m here to play. I’m gonna come in and just be Willis McGahee. That’s all I can be.”

McGahee was signed Sept. 19, a day after Richardson was traded to the Colts. Three days later, he debuted in Minnesota and rushed eight times for 9 yards, including a long of 9. He guaranteed that wouldn’t happen again.

Against the Bengals he carried 15 times for 46 yards (3.1 average).

“At the end of the game being able to get in there, he ran hard,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously, he’s a physical guy and he hits it up in there. He was big on that drive.

“And the leadership he’s bringing and the attitude he’s bringing to the offense and the team is really helping our guys.”

“I showed improvement and not only that, like I said, my goal is to outdo my performance each week,” McGahee said.

He said he can tell when a team’s going to be a winner.

“This is one of them,” he said. “It reminds me of my first year in Denver. It was really a young team.

“It’s gonna click. It’s gonna happen.”

A day for greatest

Jim Brown’s had many great days in Cleveland. Thursday promises to be another one.

Brown will be recognized by the Browns during a halftime ceremony for his contributions to the Browns and city of Cleveland, and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson proclaimed it “Jim Brown Day.”

“We are absolutely thrilled to formally honor Jim Brown, the greatest running back in the history of the NFL,” owner Jimmy Haslam said in a news release. “Jim is synonymous with the Cleveland Browns. He has an undeniable place in our history.”

Brown was enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor when it was unveiled in 2010, but didn’t attend the ceremony because he was feuding with then-president Mike Holmgren. Brown rejoined the team as a special adviser May 29. The Hall of Famer rushed for 12,312 yards and a 5.2-yard average per carry in his career from 1957-65.

“When Jimmy Haslam invited me to do this, I was flattered,” Brown said. “That night will be about family, about joining together with the city, the region and the greatest fans in all the NFL, in a celebration of the Cleveland Browns. I’m thrilled about the opportunity.”

Injury report

The Bills rushed 55 times for 213 yards Sunday in a 23-20 win over Baltimore, but the backfield will be banged up to face a Browns run defense that has allowed a league-low 2.9 yards per rush. C.J. Spiller (ankle) didn’t practice Monday and Fred Jackson (knee) was limited.

“If it was a Sunday game, I’d definitely say I’d be out there,” Spiller told reporters in Buffalo. “The only thing I can do right now is just take it day by day and see how it feels come Thursday. Do some planting and see how it feels, make a decision.”

Jackson said he suffered a tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

“I’m sore, but I’ll be ready to go. … It’s something that we can manage and I expect to play,” he said.

• Cleveland’s Shawn Lauvao (ankle) was limited and rotated in at first-team right guard with Oniel Cousins but expects to play Thursday for the first time this season. He was inactive again Sunday.

“It just wasn’t where I thought it’d be, but now I feel a lot more confident about it,” Lauvao said. “I was just being safe, I guess.
“I’m pretty positive about (Thursday).”

• Outside linebackers Jabaal Sheard (knee) and Quentin Groves (ankle) and defensive end Billy Winn (quadriceps) didn’t practice. They didn’t play Sunday.

Groves was out of a walking boot and in a sleeve, but is highly unlikely to play vs. the Bills. It’s been two weeks since he suffered a high ankle sprain.

• Kicker Billy Cundiff (right thigh) and defensive lineman John Hughes (knee) were limited.

Time is short

Chudzinski has dealt with plenty of challenges in his first four games as a head coach. He faces another in Week 5: a short work week.

The expanded Thursday night schedule gives every team a primetime opportunity but only three days between games.

“It’s a challenge in all areas,” Chudzinski said.

He listed the physical issues of playing twice in five days, the difficulty of bringing the same energy and the lack of hours to prepare for the opponent. In this case, the Browns have never faced Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel or a Doug Marrone-coached team and will be limited to three lighter-than-usual practices.

“But we’re excited about that opportunity to play on a Thursday night,” Chudzinski said.

Roster move

The Browns claimed running back/kick returner Fozzy Whittaker off waivers from San Diego and waived receiver Josh Cooper. The Browns also waived running back Montario Hardesty, who was placed on injured reserve Aug. 27.

Whittaker (5-foot-10, 202 pounds) spent the last two weeks of 2012 on Arizona’s practice squad. He appeared in three games for the Chargers this season, returning six kickoffs for a 26-yard average, a long of 42 and a fumble. He was first-team All-Big 12 kick returner at Texas.

Cooper didn’t have a catch this season and hardly played. He’s one of quarterback Brandon Weeden’s best friends from Oklahoma State.

Hardesty had arthroscopic knee surgery in August, but his release signals he believes he’s healthy enough to play for another team.

He was cursed with injuries in his three-plus years with the Browns, playing in 23 games with 153 carries and a 3.5 average. He was a second-round pick in 2010 after the Browns traded two fifth-round picks to move up in the draft.

Extra points

The attorney for former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar entered a not guilty plea on his behalf Monday. Kosar was charged with driving under the influence early Sunday morning in Solon.

His pretrial date was set for Dec. 9.

• Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo played all 68 defensive snaps Sunday in his first start.

• Rookie defensive end Armonty Bryant saw his first NFL action, playing five snaps on defense and three on special teams. He had been inactive twice and didn’t play once.

• Chudzinski said punter Spencer Lanning’s kickoff into the first line of Bengals wasn’t an onside kick. It was just a poor squib.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.