BEREA—The silver lining in losing a starting player is the fact that it allows younger players to see what they can do.
With the season-ending concussion to Jamal Lewis, it leaves Jerome Harrison and Chris Jennings as the backs to carry the load.
“Both of those guys have done well,” Eric Mangini said. “Jerome has a done a nice job and Chris Jennings has done a good job of making progress. You never want to see an injury, but this gives the younger guys a better opportunity to show what they can do.”
Harrison has 257 yards on 71 carries for a 3.6 average, while Jennings has 67 yards on 20 carries (3.4 avg.). Neither has scored a touchdown, but Harrison rushed for 121 yards on 29 carries at home against the Bengals when Lewis was injured. He also has 21 receptions for 116 yards. Jennings has eight receptions for 54 yards.
Harrison has all but disappeared after his breakout game, while Jennings seems to be the favored back, as of late.
Mangini said the Browns usually have two running backs active and didn’t necessarily think the team had to sign another back. Currently, Jed Collins is on the practice squad.
Lewis had announced that he was going to retire after this season, so the Browns might as well see what Jennings and Harrison can do in this 1-10 season.
Still, it’s sad that Lewis must go out this way.
“First, losing J-Lewis is big loss,” Jennings said. “I learned a lot from him. His departure sucks.”
“I hate to lose him like that,” he said. “He’s a great friend. He’s an individual who played hard.”
Harrison hopes to make the most of his new found opportunity.
“One person doesn’t stop a show,” Harrison said. “He’ll be missed.
“If I get the opportunity I want to make the most of it and make plays.”
As does Jennings.
“I practice hard every week and help the team in whatever way they need me,” he said. “I look at every week as an opportunity.
“Every day I have to prove myself,” he said. “Every Sunday, I have to prove myself. That’s where I’m at.”
Jennings said Lewis gave him some advice.
“He said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing,’ “he said. “He was all smiles.”
Jamal’s Finale: Mangini said that the Browns did not become aware of RB Jamal Lewis’ head injury until Monday. He did not address Lewis in his press conference after the game against the Bengals, nor with his meeting with the media on Monday.
“We became aware of the injury after the game and tried to be as thorough as possible,” Mangini said. “The first we became aware of it was this week and we started getting him tested.”
Mangini said there hasn’t been any discussion about honoring Lewis at one of the remaining home games. If indeed, his career is over, he will finish 21st in NFL history in rushing yards.
“It’s so new and with the news, it’s taken a lot of time,” Mangini said. “I haven’t talked to anybody about that. He’s obviously had a great career.”
Mangini said he didn’t know if Lewis would retire.
“It’s really Jamal’s decision,” he said. “It’s a personal decision and I’ll leave it up to him.
“It’s obviously disappointing for Jamal as he has had such a tremendous career and I can’t thank him enough for his work ethic and his commitment to helping the younger players.”
His impact was profound in the locker room.
“He can say he’s had enough with pride,” Josh Cribbs said.
“To have a first class guy like that is kind of sad,” Lawrence Vickers said.
Derek Anderson said he didn’t think it was the way Lewis wanted to finish his career.
“He was frustrated,” Anderson said. “He wanted to finish healthy. He’s not a two-yard a carry guy.”
Mangini was asked if Lewis had a Hall of Fame career.
“I don’t get involved in voting, but he’s had a very impressive career.”
On Brodney: Mangini wouldn’t say if he felt that DB Brodney Pool’s career was over as a result of another concussion.
“Brodney will undergo a series of tests for not only the short term, but the long term effects,” he said. “Player safety was a priority in New York and it has been here. The league has spent a lot of time doing research and have done a great job.”
Mangini was happy with Pool, who set personal marks in interceptions in his shortened season.
“All of those things have been real positive and it’s not the way he wanted to finish his season,” he said. “I’ve seen him make progress over the year. I really liked the range that he showed. The more comfortable he became with the system, the faster he played because he wasn’t having to think as much as to what he was to do.”
Pool is soft-spoken and sometimes questioned as to his toughness in such a violent game, but Mangini thinks that doesn’t affect his play.
“I’ve known a lot of guys who were soft-spoken off the field, who played with great intensity on the field,” he said.