It’s been no secret that injuries have been a topic of conversation among Cleveland Browns fans during training camp. The hardest hit position has been at running back.
Third round selection Duke Johnson has been dealing with a hamstring injury for over a week and has already been ruled out of Thursday’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins. Second year running back Terrance West also missed practice time last week but returned on Sunday. West’s attitude off the field has been a topic of conversation that perhaps has him in the dog house of the coaching staff.
“I think he’s taken a step,” head coach Mike Pettine said on Tuesday following practice. I think there’s still room for improvement but I think Terrance is headed in the right direction on that front.”
The Browns had four running backs miss practice on Tuesday and have had as many as five running backs miss earlier sessions of training camp. The Browns have already brought in two running backs, just to fill out the roster and to run offensive coordinator John DeFlippo’s system. The Browns are expected to have a running back by committee in 2015 with Johnson, West and Isaiah Crowell, but the injuries are making that very difficult. Crowell is expected to be the feature running back as of now, but his running backs coach Wilbur Montgomery isn’t happy that he hasn’t stepped up and taken the lead.
“That is what the coach said so I just have to come out here and just keep working hard,” Crowell said this week. “I have to come out here and take it slow and keep progressing each and every day. I feel like he means just coming out here, practicing, not coming out of practice, staying in the film room late, studying and just doing everything a professional has to do.”
Now is there another option that the Browns could possibly bring into Berea to compete for the running back job or at least serve as a wake up call for the current running backs on the roster? Yes there is, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, and it has been at least talked about inside the walls of the Browns training facility.
Rice has been out of football since last preseason after he was cut by the Ravens following a domestic violence dispute with his fiancee at that time. The couple is married now. Rice was seen on surveillance video hitting his wife while waiting for and then riding an elevator at a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey early in 2014.
Now that a year has passed it looks like Rice just might get a second chance in the National Football League. In a story first reported by Don Banks of Sports Illustrated and si.com, Pettine said that the organization has discussed signing Rice.
Pettine is familiar with the former Ravens running back. Pettine spent Rice’s rookie season of 2008 on Baltimore’s coaching staff. Montgomery was Rice’s running back coach with the Ravens from 2008 thru 2013. While there are connections between Rice and the current Browns coaching staff that doesn’t mean Rice will be wearing a brown and orange uniform.
“I don’t think it’s gotten to that point, to say, ‘Hey, I’d kind of be comfortable with it,’” Pettine said. “But I think it would get to that point if we arrived at it from a football standpoint, then asked that question. Instead of working the process backwards. Why bother with asking the question if the need never presents itself?”