Aug/30/15 10:53 PM Filed in: Duke Johnson
CLEVELAND — Duke Johnson's concussion has aggravated the Browns' headache at running back.
Johnson is following the NFL's protocol on head injuries after the rookie sustained a concussion in the first half of Saturday night's 31-7 win over Tampa Bay. Coach Mike Pettine said Sunday that Johnson, whose exhibition debut ended after he was rocked on a hit by Buccaneers cornerback Mike Jenkins, could be sidelined for some time.
The Browns have major plans this season for Johnson, a versatile third-round pick and Miami's career rushing leader. However, he hasn't been able to stay healthy.
He missed Cleveland's first two preseason games and was limited throughout training camp by a hamstring issue — a condition he said dates to high school.
Johnson only carried the ball once and caught one pass against the Buccaneers, so the Browns still don't know what Johnson can do.
"We have seen what he can do in practice and that is important," Pettine said. "That is why we were so positive and optimistic about it. Football is about availability. He hasn't been available for much of the preseason. While we are hopeful about the potential, at the same time, it is discouraging to not have him out there."
Johnson's injury, and those to veteran Shaun Draughn and Glenn Winston, has left the Browns thin at running back. Second-year backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell have not produced as expected and Pettine said the team may consider other options at the position.
One of them could be Ray Rice.
The former Baltimore back, released by the Ravens following his domestic abuse case, is available and waiting for a second chance. Pettine has acknowledged the Browns have discussed the possibility of signing Rice, who played for Cleveland running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery in Baltimore.
Pettine did not mention Rice by name when asked specifically about him Sunday.
"If we do come to the decision that we need to add a back that is not here, we'll look at the list of backs that are available," he said.
Rice is reportedly in excellent shape and excited for an opportunity to play. The Browns have to first consider if he can help them, and also what kind of public backlash they could face in signing a player with his reputation.