The Browns’ sinking season just sunk a little lower.
Punter Dave Zastudil, who may have been headed to the Pro Bowl for the first time, and tight end Steve Heiden, the second-longest-tenured Brown on the active roster, were placed onto the Injured Reserve List late Wednesday afternoon and thus will be lost for the rest of the season.
It’s more bad news for the bandaged-up and beaten-down Browns, who, at 1-8 and having lost four in a row, stagger to Detroit on Sunday to face the equally staggering 1-8 Lions, losers of six straight.
Zastudil, the Browns’ career punting leader who was averaging 44.7 yards per kick this year and has placed 25 boots inside the opponents’ 20 (second-most in the NFL), has a knee problem that reportedly dates back to training camp. The Bay Village, Ohio native and Ohio University product was made inactive for Monday night’s 16-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the team with which he played for his first four seasons, and was replaced by Reggie Hodges, who will now presumably handle the job for the final seven games of the season.
Heiden, who came to the Browns on the eve of the 2002 season in a trade with the San Diego Chargers, missed the final two games of last year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He rushed himself back in lightning-quick fashion this year, but his knee had bothered him from time to time. The ankle injury is new.
Heiden, who played his first three seasons with the Chargers, was tied for seventh on the Browns this year in receptions with 10, good for 73 yards and one of just five touchdowns the offense has scored this year.
Career-wise with the Browns, he has 187 receptions for 1,534 yards and 12 TDs.
The Browns will bring Zastudil back. He’s one of the best in the business.
But with Heiden, that may be the last Browns fans will see from him. Although he is signed through 2011, he will be 34 by early next season. With the Browns in a major rebuilding stage, it’s unlikely the head coach, whether it’s Eric Mangini or someone else, will want to move forward next season with a player that old.
Zastudil and Heiden join on the IR list starting inside linebackers Eric Barton and D’Qwell Jackson, who still rank 1-2, respectively, on the team this year in total tackles.
To fill those two roster spots, the Browns signed wide receiver Jake Allen, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, and linebacker Arnold Harrison, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both were waived by those teams on Tuesday.
Originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Packers in 2008, Allen spent all of last season on their practice squad, and spent seven weeks there this year as well before being promoted to the regular roster on Oct. 27.
Likewise, Harrison – no relation to Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison from Akron Coventry High School and Kent State – has appeared in 28 games, with two starts, over the last four seasons, totaling 12 tackles on defense and 22 on special teams.
And here’s one more bit of bad news to chew on, as you chew on your evening meal. Since 1950, which is as far back as can be researched, according to STATS LLC, the Browns’ five offensive touchdowns dating back to the end of last year are the fewest in the NFL over a 14-game span.
When can this season be over?