Starting left cornerback Leigh Bodden missed the final preseason game with a pectoral strain and was listed as questionable for the season opener against the Saints. Starting right cornerback Gary Baxter missed the entire preseason with a pectoral injury on top of missing the last 10 games in 2005 with the same injury. As if that wasn't enough of a problem, starting free safety Brian Russell was unable to practice for the Saints because he was recovering from elbow surgery.
All three started against New Orleans, but another week of practice will make them more game-ready after the forced time off because of their injuries. Daylon McCutcheon, the nickel back after eight years starting had arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 1. He missed the preseason and the opener, but he is improving and could be ready for the Bengals.
Bodden has the assignment of guarding Johnson when the Browns are in a man-to-man defense. Last year Johnson said he had more difficulty getting open against Bodden than against any corner he faced. Johnson made the claim on a national radio show and referred to Bodden as "Lehigh Bowden."
For all the grief the Browns have endured for player selection over eight years, Bodden is a true success story. He was an undrafted rookie in 2003.. He would have been a restricted free agent at the end of 2005, but the Browns locked him up for four years and $10 million. Not only is he their best cover corner, he has also emerged as a leader in the secondary.
"I'm trying to," Bodden said. "Since Gary and Daylon have been out, I've tried to be the guy people can lean on and look at. I want to just stay positive and try to play the best I can play. "I'm really not a vocal leader. I basically let my play speak. And hopefully, they'll follow my lead."
Bodden and Russell each had six tackles against the Saints. Baxter had five. Bodden also broke up three passes.
McCutcheon is the best tackle among the Browns defensive backs. They could have used him against the Saints and will need him in Cincinnati.