Faine out for season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 27, 2003

BEREA - The woes continue for the Cleveland Browns' offensive line.

Rookie center Jeff Faine went on injured reserve Wednesday and is out for the season with partially torn ligaments in his right ankle. He was hurt in the first quarter of Sunday's 13-6 loss to Pittsburgh.

The loss of Faine further weakens an offensive line that has been struggling with injuries since left tackle Ross Verba ruptured his right biceps in the final preseason game and was lost for the season.

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''Guys that have never played have had to step in and play and they've done a good job,'' quarterback Kelly Holcomb said. ''It's unfortunate what happened to Jeff. I wish he was in there, but he's not. Whoever's healthy we've got to get in there.''

Right tackle Ryan Tucker is the only starter to play every game for Cleveland this season. Injuries to the other four starters have forced the Browns to start newcomers Chad Beasley, Enoch DeMar and Joaquin Gonzalez at times.

''We're playing young offensive lineman every time we saddle up,'' coach Butch Davis said. ''If there's any younger guys that could play this season, they probably aren't out of college yet.''

Cleveland has used nine starters on its offensive line, tied with San Diego for the most this season.

''Look up 'adversity' right now in the dictionary and there's a picture of all the Cleveland Browns' offensive lineman,'' guard Shaun O'Hara said.

Second-year lineman Melvin Fowler will start at center Sunday at Seattle.

Fowler took Faine's place in the Steelers game and also started against San Diego and New England when Faine was out with a left knee injury.

The Browns failed to score a touchdown in two of those games and lost all three games without Faine, the 21st overall pick in the draft.

''I thought Jeff was doing a real good job. He was coming on strong,'' O'Hara said. ''He's going to be a good player.''

Faine's injury will not require surgery, said Davis, who added that he's still pleased he took the Notre Dame lineman with his top pick.

''It's a bitter pill to swallow, the fact that he's not going to be able to finish the season, but there's not any second guessing on having taken him,'' Davis said.

Faine follows a trend among the Browns' No. 1 picks of missing games.

Quarterback Tim Couch and defensive end Courtney Brown missed significant playing time early in their careers due to injury. William Green will miss his fourth game on Sunday for violating the league's substance abuse program.

Holcomb refused to blame the offense's struggles on the offensive line injuries.

''Injuries happen in football. You have to work through it,'' Holcomb said. ''Sometimes it does get tough when your starters are not out there. It seems like we haven't had all 11 of the starters on the offense at the same time.''

Notes: After his poor performance against Pittsburgh, Holcomb said he doesn't believe his opportunity as a starter in the NFL is slipping away. ''I don't doubt myself. You just have to keep plugging. Things get hard sometimes. People tend to get on you every now and then.'' … Davis was asked after practice Wednesday if he had lost faith in Holcomb. The coach had a one-word answer: ''Nope.'' … WR Quincy Morgan had a simple explanation for the offense's problems. ''We make plays sometimes. Sometimes we stink it up.''