GREEN BAY, Wis. — Referee Jeff Triplette announced unnecessary roughness on Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson and added he led with his helmet.
Gipson saw it differently.
“All shoulder,” Gipson said Sunday after the 31-13 loss to the Packers.
The play was scary and important.
Gipson went low, hit Packers tight end Jermichael Finley in the head and Finley remained on the ground for several minutes. He was eventually immobilized and placed on a stretcher.
The Packers announced it as a neck injury and said he had feeling and mobility in all his extremities.
Gipson faces a potential fine from the league, which has cracked down on hits to the head.
“Injuries are a part of the game, but those are tough to see, not being able to walk off the field,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Always in the back of our minds, that’s kind of our worst nightmare.”
Gipson was in the spotlight after Week 5 when he knocked out Bills quarterback EJ Manuel with a hit to the knee. Gipson wasn’t flagged or fined, but took some grief from the Bills for celebrating the hit.
He said he felt bad for Finley.
“I just broke on the ball, got a clean break, he caught the ball and I went in there and tried to deliver the big hit. Unfortunately that happened,” Gipson said. “There was no ill-intent or maliciousness to that. At the end of the day, it’s just football. My condolences go out to him, shout a prayer up for him, I hope everything is well with him.”
Finley caught a slant for a 10-yard gain with 10 minutes left and Gipson went low to stop him. Gipson appeared to get Finley, who ducked, in the head with the back of his shoulder. The ball came loose, but Finley was ruled down by contact.
The Packers went on to score a touchdown and take an insurmountable 24-6 lead.
Coach Rob Chudzinski thought Gipson led with his shoulder.
“But apparently they didn’t think so,” Chudzinski said. “They obviously called the penalty for it. We’ll look at it and see.”
Gipson (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) said he won’t change his style of play despite what happened to Finley and Manuel.
“I’m taught one way. I just play the game of football, try to be as aggressive as possible,” he said. “I’m not the biggest guy on the field. If plays come my way, I have a job to do.
“This is a clean sport. We’ve both got jobs. His job is to catch the ball, my job is to make sure he doesn’t catch it. It’s a physical sport. You never want to see something like that happen.”
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said running back Fozzy Whittaker would join the rotation against the Packers. He wasn’t kidding.
Whittaker saw by far his most extensive action since the Browns claimed him off waivers Sept. 30 after he was waived by San Diego. He carried five times for 11 yards and caught two passes for 13. He also returned three kickoffs for 103 (34.3 average) with a long of 56.
“This is my first real year of actually playing,” said Whittaker, who gained 7 yards on a draw on his first NFL carry. “I’m gaining experience, gaining knowledge from the older guys like Chris Ogbonnaya and Willis McGahee, they’re constantly feeding me knowledge. The more reps I get in games and in practice, the better back I can become. I really appreciate working with me.”
Greg Little started the game on kickoff return but was replaced by Whittaker. Travis Benjamin took one rep, going 86 yards to set up the lone touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“I’m always ready,” Whittaker said of the kickoff returns. “We practice that all the time. It’s nothing new. I just want to help the team win any way I can, if it be returner, kickoff, special teams, a special role on offense, I want to just help the team get a ‘W.’ ”
The Browns were penalized 12 times for 106 yards.
• Linebacker Jabaal Sheard, returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for three games, was a captain for the game. He joined the captains for the year, left tackle Joe Thomas, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and linebacker/special teamer Quentin Groves.
• Groves left the game in the first half with an ankle injury. He missed three games with a high ankle sprain before returning last week against the Lions.
• The Browns faked a punt on fourth-and-1 on their third possession. Punter Spencer Lanning lined up on the line and Ogbonnaya took a direct snap and ran left for a yard.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the spot, but the ruling stood.
• Tight end MarQueis Gray lined up as Wildcat quarterback twice. He handed to Whittaker for no gain and lost 2 yards on a keeper.
The Browns, as healthy as they’ve been in weeks, had no surprises on their inactive list.
Defensive end Billy Winn (quadriceps) missed his fourth straight game and has yet to return to practice since suffering the injury Sept. 22 against the Vikings.
The other inactives were backup linebacker/special teamer Brandon Magee, offensive linemen Patrick Lewis, Martin Wallace and Garrett Gilkey and tight end Keavon Milton.
The Browns had only six inactives because receiver Charles Johnson counts against the 53-man roster despite being on injured reserve. He was signed off Green Bay’s practice squad Oct. 12 and the Browns discovered he had a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Because he was signed off another team’s practice squad, he must count against the 53-man roster for three games. The Browns will be allowed to fill his spot after the game in Kansas City next Sunday.
The Packers were without two of their top three wide receivers and three of their four starting linebackers.
Receiver James Jones was inactive with a knee injury. He didn’t practice during the week and had been listed as questionable. He has 20 catches for 349 yards and two touchdowns.
Linebackers Clay Matthews (thumb), Nick Perry (foot) and Brad Jones (hamstring) were inactive. Mike Neal, who was listed as questionable with a shoulder injury, Jamari Lattimore and Andy Mulumba started in their place.
The other inactives were cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring), running back James Starks (knee) and tight end Ryan Taylor (knee).
The Packers were also without receiver Randall Cobb, who was placed on injured reserve-designated to return last week with a knee injury. Jarrett Boykin, who entered with one catch, started.
Fan voting is open for the Pro Bowl at NFL.com/probowl/ballot. Voting will conclude Dec. 26, and the Pro Bowlers will be announced in early January – later than in the past.
• The Browns’ only previous regular-season games at Lambeau Field were in 2001 and ’05. From 1953-83, the Packers hosted the Browns in Milwaukee five times.
The Packers also beat the Browns 23-12 in the 1965 NFL Championship at Lambeau.
• The Browns wore brown pants with white jerseys.
• The Packers wore throwback jerseys representing 1929, the year of Green Bay’s first world title.
• The Packers’ 22 Hall of Famers rank second. The Browns are sixth with 16.
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