The Browns suffered their first “Cleveland” injury of training camp this week, losing punter Reggie Hodges for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
“He just reached up, and the snap was about head high,” coach Pat Shurmur said in published reports. “He did something he’s done a million times.”
Welcome to Cleveland, coach.
The team placed Hodges on injured reserve Wednesday and will now have to find someone to replace the talented punter.
While some may say, “it’s only a punter,” Hodges was a major asset to the team last season, with a gross average of 43.9 yards on 78 punts. His net of 39.0 was ninth in the league and his 29 punts inside the 20 were tied for eighth. He ranked third in the NFL with 15 punts downed inside the 10-yard line.
And we won’t soon forget his 68-yard run on a fake punt against New Orleans last season.
Those are all key numbers for a Browns team that is transitioning to the West Coast offense and a 4-3 defense. Playing the field position game is going to be important for this team as it figures things out in the first season under Shurmur.
Now that weapon is gone, at least for now.
“We’re gonna look for the best possible replacement that we can, and we’re gonna quickly address that,” Shurmur said in published reports. “We’ll have some guys in (today and) get a tryout going. We’ll have some guys in (today) and try to find the best possible guy that we can find at this time and keep hunting and searching for the guy that’s gonna be our punter.”
Turns out, that person is Richmond McGee, who was originally signed as an undrafted free agent. McGee has spent training camps with the Eagles (2008) and the Bears (2009-10). Last season, he had a brief stint on the Bears’ practice squad.
In happier news, first-round pick Phil Taylor finally came to terms on a four-year contract and will be at practice when the Browns take the field Thursday afternoon.
“We’re very happy that we were able to sign Phil and now have all eight draft picks under contract,” said GM Tom Heckert in a statement. “It was important to get him in here when we did, and I want to thank (agent) Peter Schaffer for all of his help in getting this deal done. It’s apparent that Phil kept himself in excellent shape since we drafted him and he told us he can’t wait to get started. ”
The team also signed former Eagles cornerback Dimitri Patterson as they try to build some depth in the secondary.
Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, who coached the secondary in Philadelphia last season, and cornerback Sheldon Brown, a former Eagle, are familiar with Patterson. Bringing him in is no different than former coach Eric Mangini bringing in every ex-Jet short of Wahoo McDaniel the past two years.
Patterson has his detractors, with one writer at ESPN’s Grantland opining that “Patterson was a last resort at cornerback forced into action by injuries; teams avoided Asante Samuel and spent the second half throwing at the guy who the Philadelphia Inquirer politely noted ” … is better suited to special teams.”
If Patterson has to take on a starting role, the Browns are in trouble. But if he contributes on special teams and works his way onto the field as a dime back, things will probably be OK.
We’ve been wondering when and how the Browns planned to spend their available cap space, which at the start of the week stood at $30.4 million.
But it turns out, thankfully, they don’t have to be in a rush to throw money around, as the much talked about salary floor – requiring teams to spend at least 89 percent of the salary cap in cash on an annual basis – doesn’t kick in until 2013.
This season and next the league as whole must spend 99 percent of the salary cap in cash, with the league paying the difference if the 99 percent figure isn’t reached.
So don’t expert Heckert to loosen the purse strings much more this year.
Finally, here’s a depressing article about how the NFL Network is slowly killing NFL Films.
Be warned, though, the layout of the article is one of the most painful ones we’ve seen in a long time. But it’s worth the effort.
(Photo by The Plain Dealer)