Browns missing Faine, O#039;Hara

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 16, 2003

BEREA - Just when the Cleveland Browns' offensive line was finally opening sizable gaps in opposing defenses, it sprang two holes of its own.

Rookie center Jeff Faine and left guard Shaun O'Hara will both miss Sunday's game against San Diego after sustaining knee injuries in last week's win over Oakland.

Faine has a sprained left medial collateral ligament while O'Hara stretched his right anterior cruciate ligament.

Email newsletter signup

The latest offensive injuries have forced yet another shakeup to Cleveland's revamped line, which was coming off strong performances the past two weeks.

William Green gained 115 yards rushing at Pittsburgh two weeks ago and 145 on Sunday against the Raiders, making him the first Browns running back to have consecutive 100-yard games since Kevin Mack in 1986.

''We'll make due,'' said Browns coach Butch Davis.

Melvin Fowler, who made one start at center last season and three at left guard this year before being benched, will replace Faine. Either Chad Beasley, a former defensive linemen, or free agent rookie Enoch DeMar will take O'Hara's spot.

Beasley and DeMar split time with the first unit in Wednesday's practice, Davis said.

A reshuffled offensive line is standard for Browns quarterback Tim Couch. Since 1999, the Browns have used 20 different starting lineup combinations in front of Couch.

''Hopefully, we won't have to take a step back and keep what we've had going the last two weeks,'' Couch said. ''Hopefully these guys have been paying attention and watching in practice at what's been going on.''

Faine, the Browns' first-round draft pick (No. 21 overall) in April, got hurt early in the fourth quarter Sunday while out front on a running play for Green.

''I was blocking a guy and my leg kind of got trapped on top of someone else's,'' Faine said Wednesday. ''Will got tackled right on top of me. Luckily, I was wearing my brace. It saved two other ligaments.''

Despite being in extreme pain and limping badly, Faine remained in the game.

''They sent someone out to get me but I wanted to finish it off,'' Faine said. ''I'd gone that far and the game was going pretty well and I wanted to finish up.''

O'Hara's injury could be worse.

He was not available during the period the Browns' locker room was open to the media. Neither he or Faine came out to watch Wednesday's workout.

Davis said O'Hara ''stretched'' his ligament.

Fowler filled in at center last season against Tampa Bay when Dave Wohlabaugh was injured. He won the starting job this season at left guard, but with the Browns' running game struggling through three games, Fowler was benched and O'Hara was moved from the right side.

Fowler, a third-round selection from Maryland in 2002, has been inactive in two of the past three games.

However, Davis said the Browns still have confidence in Fowler.

''Just because you're inactive doesn't mean you're in the doghouse,'' Davis said.

The Browns' O-line has had to be reconstructed since the final exhibition game when left tackle Ross Verba suffered a season-ending biceps injury.

Verba's loss led to Barry Stokes being moved from left guard to tackle, where he has played the past four weeks on a badly sprained right ankle.

Fowler and O'Hara played three games apiece at left guard with Paul Zukauskas starting the past three on the right side.

Despite having to replace two starters this week, Davis doesn't expect any drop-off in production and said the Browns will not scale back their offense.

''We're preparing to play and play well,'' he said. ''Injuries are part of it. You have to guys who are ready to step up. When Kelly (Holcomb) went down, Tim stepped up. When we lost Ross Verba, Barry Stokes stepped in and did a nice job. You have to have that attitude.''