Injuries Hurt Browns, Playoff Chances

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - As Daylon McCutcheon hobbled into the locker room wearing a walking boot on his sprained right ankle, Corey Fuller limped by with an ice bag strapped to his foot.

Aaron Shea was getting more tests on his sore shoulder and Orpheus Roye's knee was being re-examined by doctors.

The Cleveland Browns came back from a 27-16 loss in New England beaten, battered and bruised.

Kind of like their playoff hopes.

"We still have a chance," said McCutcheon, who re-injured an already tender ankle during pregame warmups. "But we've got to get everybody healthy."

The Browns (6-6), who are battling several other teams for a wild-card spot, are running out of time and games to get that done.

Cleveland's depth chart was already very thin before facing the Patriots. Three starters -- guard Tre Johnson, tight end Ricky Dudley and defensive end Keith McKenzie -- previously sustained season-ending injuries and defensive end Courtney Brown, the club's best player, was sidelined with an injured ankle.

In addition, H-back Mike Sellers was released two weeks ago following his drug-related arrest and suspension.

The Browns couldn't afford any more costly injuries, and then two happened in the opening minutes on Sunday when Shea and McCutcheon went down, forcing the Browns to use inexperienced backups and scrap their offensive game plan.

Desperate times meant desperate measures.

Backup center Shaun O'Hara played some tight end, running backs Jamel White and James Jackson were used in the same backfield for the first time and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians drew up plays on the fly.

"We were coaching guys on the sideline as hard as we could," Arians said. "'All right, these next five plays we're going to try and run these plays. You're going to play here, you're going to play here and you're going to play here.'"

Without McCutcheon, the Browns' surest tackler and best cover man, the Patriots exposed rookie cornerback Anthony Henry and backup Ray Jackson.

The injuries took away what little margin of error the Browns have, and then they compounded their problems with four turnovers and by giving up an 85-yard TD punt return.

Cleveland's offense managed just 50 rushing yards and didn't score a TD despite getting inside New England's 20-yard line three times.

Browns coach Butch Davis said Monday he'll make changes to the starting lineup for this week's game against Jacksonville. It will be Cleveland's final home game before playing three straight on the road to end the season.

Davis wouldn't specify the changes, but indicated they would be on offense.

"There are going to be some things we can do," Davis said. "We're not going to take the stand-back-and-hang-onto-the-cliff approach. We're going to put ourselves in position to win game No. 7. We're going to try and get better in the next seven days."

There was some good news for the Browns.

Davis said Brown, who missed the club's first six games this season with a knee injury, had a cast removed from his left ankle, increasing the likelihood that he would play this week.

And Davis said tight end O.J. Santiago will not be arrested by Pittsburgh police, after all.

On Saturday, Lt. Kevin Kraus said that a warrant was filed against Santiago and that he notified NFL security. According to Davis, the warrant "came out of left field" and he said the Browns were informed on Monday that there would not be a warrant issued.

"He will not be arrested," Davis said. "There is no arrest warrant."

Kraus was not immediately available for comment.

Santiago was with defensive tackle Gerard Warren, who was arrested on Nov. 20 outside a Pittsburgh nightclub on charges of carrying an unlicensed firearm in his car.

Davis suspended Warren for one game, and would have likely done the same with Santiago.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)