The start of training camp is still more than three weeks away, and already coach Eric Mangini is faced with an unusual dilemma.
Two players absent-mindedly carrying guns in an airport over the past six months, not injuries, could have a devastating effect on the Browns defensive line in the early portion of the 2010 season.
Robaire Smith, a Browns starting defensive end, could be in trouble with the law and the NFL because a loaded hand gun was discovered in his carry-on bag at Bishop County Airport in Flint, Mich., according to a report in the Flint Journal.
The incident occurred on Nov. 9 of last year. Charges were not filed until last week, after Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton decided to bring charges locally instead of on a federal level.
Smith is charged with possession of a firearm in a sterile area of a community airport. He faces one year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted. He also faces possible discipline from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell could suspend Smith or fine him.
Smith told authorities he forgot the weapon was in his baggage when the Belgium 5.7 firearm was discovered as his bag was going through the airport security X-ray machine while he was preparing to board a plane bound for Atlanta. Smith was detained and the gun, which contained between 15 and 17 rounds in the magazine, was confiscated. No bullet was in the chamber. Smith was released pending further investigation.
Smith's attorney, Frank J. Manley, called the episode an unfortunate incident and said Smith has been a role model for the community, according to the Flint Journal report. Smith started 15 of 16 games with the Browns last season. He missed the game against the Chiefs on Dec. 20 because of a groin injury.
Coincidentally, Smith was traveling with Shaun Rogers on April 1 when officials at Cleveland Hopkins Airport discovered a gun in Rogers' carry-on bag as it went through the X-ray machine at a security checkpoint. Rogers told authorities the same thing Smith told police in Flint -- he forgot the gun was in his bag.
Rogers also faces punishment from the law and possible suspension from Goodell.
The separate incidents mean the Browns could be without two starting defensive linemen when their season opens Sept. 12 in Tampa.
Rogers missed the last five games of 2009 with a broken leg. Ahtyba Rubin would start at nose tackle if Rogers were suspended. C.J. Mosley could replace Smith if Smith could not play.
--WR Bobby Engram signed with the Browns on July 8. Engram, who played for Mike Holmgren in Seattle, reunited with the Browns' team president after spending five games with the Chiefs last season before he was released in November. Engram, 37, could find a roster spot on a team with many unproven options at the position.
--Former Browns receiver Steve Sanders has landed a job with the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League. He caught 14 passes in a recent game but despite that eye-popping number he is having difficulty catching the ball consistently.
--Jake Delhomme is the first Browns quarterback to wear "17" since Todd Philcox from 1991-93. The 17 jersey was more famously worn by Brian Sipe from 1974-83.
Delhomme has a special reason for wearing 17, and it has nothing to do with honoring Sipe. His daughter, Lauren Elizabeth, was born on Dec. 17, 2001. Coincidentally, his wife, Keri, was in labor for 17 hours with Lauren. Delhomme decided that was reason enough to wear 17 while with Carolina from 2003-2009. When 17 was available with the Browns he did hesitate to grab it.
--The Browns rookies stayed in Cleveland after minicamp to continue their preparation leading to training camp. One item on their agenda was a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
"It's just a blessing to be here, checking out everything and learning about the original football and how this got started," safety T.J. Ward told Cleveland Browns.com. "It's been a very good experience. The Browns have an outstanding tradition and just to be a part of the Browns is a blessing, but to hope that one day, you could add to that tradition is a very good thought."
--The Browns struggled to score points last season, particularly in the first 12 games until they developed a punishing ground game the last month. So why was the biggest concentration of the offseason on defense? Because the Browns had so much trouble getting the opponent off the field.
The Browns allowed 336 first downs in 2009, the most of any team in the league. Consequently, they signed linebacker Scott Fujita in free agency, traded for linebacker Chris Gocong and cornerback Sheldon Brown, used their first draft choice on cornerback Joe Haden and their second on safety T.J. Ward. They also drafted safety Larry Asante and defensive end Clifton Geathers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I put a lot of thought into everything I do." -- Kicker Phil Dawson on his decision to skip non-mandatory workouts but show up at mandatory minicamp.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A year ago Phil Dawson was the only kicker in training camp for the Browns and it seems Coach Eric Mangini is willing to let Dawson fly solo again despite the fact Dawson, 35, missed five games last season with a calf injury.
Shaun Suisham, a veteran kicker who formerly played for the Redskins and Cowboys was on the roster while Dawson boycotted the OTAs because he is unhappy with his contract. Both players were on the roster during minicamp, but eight players were cut and Suisham was one of them.
It is still possible the Browns could sign a kicker to take some of the workload off Dawson, but that does not seem likely. Mangini likes to save that spot for depth at another position.