BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland’s notorious quarterback carousel has thrown another rider.
Just two weeks into a new season, the Browns are down two starters.
“This is pro football and these things happen,” first-year coach Hue Jackson said. “Maybe not to this degree any place I have been.”
Welcome aboard, coach.
With Josh McCown out indefinitely after sustaining a “deep sprain” in his left shoulder during Sunday’s 25-20 loss to Baltimore, the Browns are expected to start rookie Cody Kessler this week at Miami.
McCown’s injury comes just a week after Robert Griffin III broke a bone in his left shoulder during the season opener at Philadelphia and will be sidelined for a minimum of eight games.
Jackson did not provide any specifics about the injury to McCown, who displayed toughness by staying in the game and absorbing several big hits while nearly leading the Browns (0-2) to a comeback win.
All that’s clear is that McCown won’t play this week, and that Kessler will likely be the 26th starter for Cleveland since 1999 — and fifth in the past five games for the Browns, snake bitten at the game’s most important position.
“Obviously, he is the next guy up,” Jackson said of Kessler, a four-year starter at USC who struggled during training camp and the exhibition season. “Cody will be out there playing. There is no doubt about that.”
On Monday night, the Browns gave Jackson another option and added experience to their quarterback position by agreeing to sign free agent veteran Charlie Whitehurst. The 34-year-old has gone 2-7 in nine NFL games. He spent last season with Tennessee and Indianapolis.
Whitehurst worked out on Monday with the Browns, who are also expected to sign rookie Kevin Hogan from the practice squad.
Jackson was vague as he discussed the extent of McCown’s injury or any timetable for the 37-year-old’s return.
At one point, Jackson joked that he might suit up next for the Browns. Jackson still has his sense of humor, but it could be tested in the coming weeks if the Browns, who play four of their next five games on the road, continue to lose quarterbacks at an alarming rate.
If Kessler starts, and all signs point to that happening, Cleveland will is the first team since the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs to start three QBs in the first three weeks.
McCown’s injury was the only major one for the Browns, who also lost Cam Erving (bruised lung) and rookie defensive end Carl Nassib (broken hand) against the Ravens. Erving spent Sunday night in the hospital and will miss several games.
McCown was injured in the first quarter, but remained in the game despite being in pain. Afterward, he became emotional when he talked about wanting to stay on the field with his teammates.
“He is one of the toughest human beings I’ve seen play in a long time,” Jackson said. “He has the complete trust and respect of the locker room because of what he does and how he goes about it. He will fight to the bitter end.”
Jackson was somewhat evasive in describing the injury to McCown, who missed the final five games last season with a broken collarbone.
“I don’t know that it is totally broken,” Jackson said. “I don’t think that, but I know that there is something that is not right. It is more of a deep sprain at this time than anything, but I don’t think there is anything totally broken.”
Jackson’s comments might indicate there is a hairline fracture and doctors will wait to see how it heals in the next few weeks.
For now, the starting job belongs to Kessler, who warmed up twice on the sideline in case McCown couldn’t continue.
Kessler was a surprise pick in the third round by the Browns, who chose to pass on the top QBs in the draft. The selection stunned draft experts and prompted Jackson to say, “trust me” to ease any anxiety Cleveland fans had with the choice of Kessler.
Jackson laughed Monday when reminded about his comment.
“Well, you’re going to trust me this weekend,” he said. “Here we go, right? So trust me, here we come. We’ll see what that statement was all about.”
Kessler felt ready to step in on Sunday, and he’s excited about the chance to play.
If there are doubters, so be it.
“I have nothing to prove,” he said. “I’ve been like that my whole life. I went to USC and I was the second guy to commit there and I never thought I’d get a chance there and I kept my mouth shut and put my head down and just kept working.
“I respect the position. I respect that the game takes a lot. You’ve got to work hard, but for me, it’s nothing to prove. It’s just continue to do what I’ve been doing and keep working hard and get prepared and ready to go.”