Browns linemen Bitonio, Erving out with leg injuries
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Joel Bitonio’s comeback from a major injury has been stalled.
Cleveland’s starting left guard — and one of the Browns best players — could be out for an extended period with an unspecified knee injury.
The team said Bitonio, whose previous two seasons have ended prematurely because of injuries, got hurt during Tuesday’s practice.
Also, backup tackle Cam Erving, a former starter and first-round pick, injured his calf during the workout and could be out for a few weeks. The Browns did not say which legs the players hurt.
Coach Hue Jackson is hopeful both will be back for the Sept. 10 season opener against Pittsburgh. Bitonio and Erving are officially out of Monday night’s game against the New York Giants.
“We will see where they are and hopefully, we get them back as soon as we can,” Jackson said. “I know our medical staff, they do everything they can to get our guys back soon. But I don’t think it is anything major that is going to keep them out a ton of time. I just think we have to work through some things to make sure we get those guys both healthy.”
Bitonio played in just five games last season after he suffered a foot injury late in the first half of a loss to New England. He stayed in the game but wound up having ligament surgery. A year earlier, Bitonio’s season was cut short after 10 games by an ankle injury.
Jackson was asked if he’s concerned by Bitonio’s rash of injuries.
“Trust me, this is not Joel doing this,” he said. “Things happen, and so hopefully we will get him back. I know we will get him back. I am very comfortable and confident that he will be back and will be back soon — sooner rather than later — and be ready to play. He is very competitive. He wants to be out here right now. Again, we will get through this. It is nothing major. We are going to be fine.”
Bitonio’s injuries didn’t stop the Browns from signing him to a five-year, $47.5 million contract in March.
Before the team revealed Bitonio’s latest injury, Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said having him back would bolster Cleveland’s offensive line.
“Joel is, in my opinion, one of the best guards in the NFL and having him out there is a huge boost for us in the run game and the pass game,” Thomas said. “Emotionally he brings an energy and enthusiasm on the offense that can kind of help lift all the boats on the offense. He’s like the tide. When he comes in, everyone just gets lifted.”
John Greco, who made 10 starts last season at right guard and two at center, took Bitonio’s spot on Wednesday.
Erving is competing with Shon Coleman for the starting job at right tackle. He filled in for Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas in the exhibition opener and was penalized for a false start and hold on Cleveland’s opening possession.
Jackson gave a lukewarm assessment of Erving’s camp so far.
“He has shown some good things. He has shown some inconsistency, too,” Jackson said. “He needs to continue to get better.”