What has arguably been the best preseason in the history of the “new” Cleveland Browns continues to be marred by injuries.
The first blow to the Cleveland rushing attack on Thursday actually came before the Browns vs. Detroit Lions contest kicked off. RB Montario Hardesty, who has struggled with injuries even before being drafted by the Browns, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on August 15. He is expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks. It had, even before Thursday’s news, been speculated that Hardesty may not even make the Cleveland roster had he not impressed during the preseason.
Things went from bad to worse during the evening. A week and a half after Shawn Lauvao suffered a high ankle sprain during practice, fellow Cleveland guard Jason Pinkston went down with a right ankle sprain. Pinkston, who was seen on crutches and in a walking boot after the game, could temporarily be replaced by seventh-round draft pick Garrett Gilkey or a free agent guard who hasn’t yet been signed by the Browns.
The biggest news of the night on the Cleveland injury front came when Dion Lewis failed to return to his feet following a crunching tackle during the second half. Lewis was ultimately carted off the field, and the team reported after the game that he had suffered a broken left fibula. While he hadn’t yet been placed on IR as of the posting of this piece, it is expected that he will miss the entire 2013 NFL season.
Lewis had sparkled for the Browns during training camp and the team’s first two preseason games. The hope was that the elusive back could be a third-down option for Cleveland, and that he could lighten the load for first-choice RB Trent Richardson. Now, with Lewis lost and Hardesty again banged up, the Browns will likely have to look to free agency for a RB.
Richardson, a player with a long injury history and also one who had been nursing a shin problem this summer, looked just fine against the Lions. He had 33 yards on six carries, and he hit the hole as hard as he ever has during his NFL career. Perhaps most impressive was the way he immediately sprang to his feet after getting absolutely crushed by Ndamukong Suh.
Injuries are going to be a worry about Richardson regardless of how good he looks between now and September. The Browns having a weakened offensive line and a lack of RB options just increases those concerns. All signs point to T-Rich going down this season. We currently have him as the most likely running back to get injured amongst in 2013 at 99.7%.