CINCINNATI – There’s a race going on with the Browns, and it’s a close one – almost a dead heat, in fact.
The problem is, whichever of the two entrants wins, the Browns are worse off for it.
By Monday, when further medical evaluations will have been made, the Browns may have almost as many players on the Injured Reserve List as they do losses on the season.
The Browns’ record fell to 1-10 on Sunday with their sixth straight defeat, a 16-7 decision to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. But the more important – and more lasting – loss could be that of the three defensive players felled by injury on a team that already has seven players, including both starting inside linebackers in D’Qwell Jackson and Eric Barton, on IR.
Lost on Sunday were two more starters in three-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers and safety Brodney Pool, and end Kenyon Coleman, a key reserve.
Rogers, who made the Pro Bowl in 2008 in his first season with the Browns and could have been headed there again this year, suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and had to be carted off. He started all 16 games the last two years and has missed only 14 games in his nine seasons.
Pool, who has had concussion problems since the beginning of his career in
2005, exited early in the second half with what was announced as a head injury.
Coleman left in the first half after hurting his knee.
“Obviously, I’m concerned about all of the injured guys,” Browns head coach Eric Mangini said. “As for the extent of their injuries, I’m not 100 sure yet.”
Rogers’ injury – at least from a pain standpoint – appeared to be the most serious. He looked to be in agony as he laid on his back while trainers attended to him on the field.
And from a personnel standpoint, his loss would be the most serious of the three. At 6-foot-4 and about 340 pounds, he is the heart and soul in the middle of the defense. Although it’s not always apparent because of the numbers the defense is giving up, he plugs a lot of holes.
“Shaun is a heck of a player,” Bengals center Kyle Cook said. “You have to go into the game knowing that he will make some plays.”
Second-year pro Ahtyba Rubin has done a good job of spelling Rogers, but right now, that’s just what he is, a reserve. He is no Shaun Rogers.
Especially with the NFL’s crackdown on head injuries, Pool may be nearing the point when he might have to reassess continuing his career. He has been able to play through a lot of the concussions, but the fact they keep recurring – if indeed it’s another concussion – can’t be good.
Otherwise, the only injury he has had was to his ankle as a rookie, which caused the second-round draft choice to miss three games.
Coleman, one of the many players Mangini has brought with him from the New York Jets, is coming off a stretch in which he’s played three straight seasons without missing a game.
The mounting injuries, causing players to play out of position and learn new spots and roles, are making the mounting losses tougher to take.
“This is real tough, real rough. I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t,” defensive end Corey Williams said of the injuries. “Anytime you lose guys, it’s difficult.
“But the other guys have got to suck it up, go in there and step up. You have to be ready because you never know when your number is going to be called.”
That’s particularly true on a team where the numbers – of losses and injuries -- are starting to really add up to a bad result, a bad finish, in a race where they can be no winners, thus adding insult to … well, injury.