No, contrary to myriad reports on Monday, right guard/right tackle Ryan Tucker has not been released by the Browns.
No, he has not retired, either – not yet, at least.
And although Eric Mangini said Tuesday in his daily press conference that Tucker has been placed onto the Injured Reserve List, the Browns head coach said the 13th-year pro is not necessarily done for the season. He added that he would “be open” to having Tucker back “if things work out that way.”
Welcome to the Browns, where, with Mangini’s determination to control news coming from his team and not give opponents a competitive advantage, things are not always as they seem to be. Finding what’s really going on is sometimes as hard as arm wrestling 350-pound-plus Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers.
Usually, when a player goes onto IR, he is shelved for the season. But Mangini said there are “different classifications of IR.” He hinted that there may be an injury settlement reached with Tucker at some point, after which the Browns would wait maybe six weeks and then bring him back under some kind of NFL rule.
The Browns could certainly use a healthy Tucker, whose versatility and experience would really help the depth on the offensive line. But Tucker, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last Wednesday, has not been himself for most of training camp and the preseason. Because of tremendous swelling in the knee, Tucker has looked slow and has dropped down the depth chart like a rock, playing mostly with the No. 3s the last time anyone saw him.
We’ll see how it plays out. That’s about all anyone can do with the Browns now.
But Mangini says he “likes Ryan a lot. He’s such a good guy – a fun guy. He’s all the things you look for in a player. He’s everything a pro should be. He’s an excellent team guy, an excellent locker room guy.”
But he’s not on the Browns active roster – for the time being, anyway.
The Browns made another interesting move Tuesday when they traded defensive lineman Louis Leonard to the Carolina Panthers. Mangini would not say what his club got in return.
The key point in this transaction, though, is that Leonard was the player who got into a verbal on-field spat with defensive line coach Bryan Cox a couple of weeks ago. So did defensive lineman Shaun Smith earlier, and he was cut and then re-signed with the Detroit Lions.
During spring work, Mangini cut rookie defensive back Brian Williams after the University of Akron product dogged it to the hilt – to the point of seemingly trying to show up the coach -- when he was ordered to run a lap around the field after making a mistake in practice.
The difference between Leonard and Smith and Williams is that the latter two did not apologize for their actions. But Leonard did – exceedingly so – right after practice, praising Cox and saying that he had learned a lot from him.
However, was that enough to bring him back into good graces with Mangini, who is tight with Cox? Or did the Browns just need time to find a way to ship him out of town?
Or was it simply a combination of their dissatisfaction with how Leonard had acted toward Cox, plus the opportunity to get something in return – whatever that was – in a trade for someone who might have been hard-pressed to make the final roster?
Who knows? We may never know.
The only thing we do know – now more than ever – is that Mangini is in firm control of this team.
STAYING PUT: When the Browns traded down three times in the first round and then used the No. 21 overall choice in this year’s NFL Draft to take center Alex Smith, it was universally believed that it would eventually signal the exit of 10th-year pro Hank Fraley, who had held the position the last three years.
But one of the most interesting things of training camp and the preseason is the way Fraley has dug in his heels and made it oh, so hard for the Browns to get rid of him.
Mangini was effusive in his praise of Fraley on Tuesday, saying, “The one thing I like about Hank is how savvy he is. He has a real understanding of what’s going on out there.” That, along with Tucker’s situation – whatever that is – and the fact Rex Hadnot is just now returning from knee problems, has left the once-plentiful line depth the Browns had a little scarce. Because he can play guard as well as center, Fraley’s stock has gone way up.
While acknowledging he understands what everyone thought about his expected demise, Fraley said simply, “I’ve always been the underdog. I’m not doing anything different. I’m just doing what I’ve always done – what everyone in this game should do – and that is to work as hard as you can every day.” And because of that, the Browns line is better off, contends left guard Eric Steinbach, who, it was thought at the beginning of camp, might get pushed off the roster, too, because he was not heavy enough for Mangini’s power running game.
“Hank’s Hank. He always plays that way,” Steinbach said. “He’s a veteran guy who has seen everything. He has really helped Alex with passing on that knowledge. Now we’ve got the first-round draft pick who was a successful college player, and the guy who has done it in the NFL for a long time. We’re fortunate to have that situation.”
FOLLOW UP: Yes, as speculated here Monday, Mangini does indeed seem to have patience with his old buddy from New England, veteran wide receiver David Patten.
Because of an undisclosed injury, Patten has hardly been seen since tearing things up in the Family Day intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 8. But Mangini on Tuesday praised Patten. Patten says he’s frustrated in not being able to show what he can do. He has a long track record, though, especially with Mangini, and that’s what really counts. Patten and smallish slot receiver Mike Furrey are basically the same player, but because of the coach’s relationship with Patten, it appears now that the Browns will go with six wideouts in Patten, Furrey, Braylon Edwards, Joshua Cribbs and rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi.
Their causes are helped considerably because they can all play special teams, adding value to their roster spots.
BUT YOU ALREADY KNEW: For maybe the 100th time this week, Mangini declined to name a starter or disclose how the two quarterbacks involved in an open competition for the starting job, Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, will be used against the Bears. Again, you’re probably going to know who won this derby when the winner gets under center for the first offensive play of the regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. You can be sure the Browns starting offensive lineup will not be introduced before the game. There is less secrecy involving U.S. troop movements in Afghanistan than there is in this quarterback saga.