Injuries continue to mount as Browns lose four more starters

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2003

CLEVELAND - Fortunately, the Cleveland Browns only have three games left. They're running out of players.

Defensive end Courtney Brown and three other Cleveland starters sustained season-ending injuries in Monday night's loss to the St. Louis Rams, a final blow to the demoralized Browns who have been banged up all season.

''We continue to be ravaged by injuries, which is obviously frustrating and disappointing for all of us,'' coach Butch Davis said. ''I really feel for the players.''

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Brown, the former No. 1 overall pick whose NFL career has been slowed by serious injuries, ruptured his right biceps tendon in the second quarter Monday night.

It's the third straight season Brown has been unable to finish because of an injury. He missed the final four regular-season games and the Browns' playoff game last season with a knee injury.

In addition, running back James Jackson tore a ligament in his right knee on a run in the first quarter, kicker Phil Dawson broke his left arm while making a tackle and offensive guard Chad Beasley broke his right ankle in the 26-20 loss.

The club also said cornerback Lewis Sanders, who did not play against St. Louis, will be sidelined the remainder of the season because of a persistent groin injury.

All five players were placed on the reserve-injured list, joining a group that already included left tackle Ross Verba, center Jeff Faine, tight ends Aaron Shea and Steve Heiden and defensive tackle Alvin McKinley.

The Browns (4-9) haven't been able to shake the injury bug since Verba tore a biceps muscle in the final exhibition game.

Nine offensive starters have missed a total of 47 games because of injuries, and several players including quarterbacks Kelly Holcomb (broken leg), Tim Couch (sprained knee) tackle Barry Stokes (sprained ankle) have played hurt with injuries that would have normally kept them out.

Also, for the past five weeks, the team has been without running back William Green, who has been indefinitely suspended by the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse program.

Brown, the top pick in the 2000 draft, was beginning to emerge as a dominant defensive force after undergoing offseason microfracture surgery on his knee.

The former Penn State All-American had missed 32 games over the past two years with injuries but had started in all 12 games this season before getting hurt.

Brown recorded six sacks and made 60 tackles. He was named the AFC's defensive player of the week after getting two sacks, forcing a fumble and recovering it in a win over Pittsburgh.

''Courtney was having his finest NFL season and was producing quality games on a consistent basis,'' Davis said.

Brown's injury is similar to the one suffered by Verba, who doctors said would need six months to recover.

During the summer, the team restructured Brown's $5.5 million contract for 2003, providing Cleveland with nearly $2 million of relief under the salary cap.

Jackson, who has been starting while Green serves his suspension, got hurt after cutting back on an 18-yard run. Before he got hurt, Jackson had picked up 30 yards on four carries.

Dawson, who was 18-for-21 on field-goal attempts, apparently broke his arm while making a tackle in the second half. Despite being fitted with a cast, Dawson stayed in the game and continued to kick.

Beasley limped off the field in the third quarter and did not return. The second-year lineman was replacing Paul Zukauskas, who left the team last week ago following his mother's death. Zukauskas is expected to be back for this week's game at Denver.