The Browns are crossing their fingers and hoping history is not repeating itself with one of their prize players from the April draft.
Rookie running back Montario Hardesty missed the first several practices of training camp and could be sidelined two weeks or more because he twisted his knee during a portion of rookie practice Thursday.
At this point Hardesty will not need surgery. Coach Eric Mangini was not specific about the injury.
"We probably won't see him for a couple weeks," Mangini said. "We're taking it real slow and conservatively and will see where it is at that point."
Hardesty and veteran Jerome Harrison were supposed to battle for the starting running back job, but when practice began Hardesty was not on the field, and nowhere in sight.
Other injured players, including defensive linemen Shaun Rogers and C.J. Mosley plus cornerback Coye Francies either watched practice from the sideline or worked on the exercise bikes. Hardesty was inside the training complex.
Alarm bells went off in the heads of reporters on the sideline because of Hardesty's injury history at the University of Tennessee. He tore his ACL in 2005, suffered an ankle sprain and a stress fracture during his college career. He did not play a full season until 2009, his senior year.
The Browns had concerns, but their doctors examined Hardesty thoroughly before the draft and pronounced him fit with no red flags. The Browns traded three draft picks to the Eagles so they could take Hardesty with the 59th overall pick.
"It wasn't related to those injuries, so it was nothing that was a pre-existing type of situation," Mangini said.
Harrison is taking most of the first-team reps in practice.
The two-week rest planned for Hardesty means he probably will miss the preseason opener in Green Bay. During minicamp Hardesty looked sure of himself. He caught the ball well and did not seem lost as some rookies do, prompting talk of a duel with Harrison, who rushed for 561 yards in the final three games of 2009.
Now the job seems Harrison's to lose. He missed some of the OTAs and then signed a one-year tender and participated in minicamp.
"I've always found Jerome to be confident and I like that in Jerome," Mangini said. "He believes in the things can do and he can back up that belief in himself."
Harrison rushed for 561 yards in the final three games last season. The Browns were impressed, but not enough to give Harrison more than the one-year tender the other restricted free agents received. Plus, to give up three draft picks -- one third and two fifth-rounders -- shows what the Browns thought of Hardesty.
"I love Jerome Harrison," Holmgren said before Hardesty was injured. "We had a good visit this offseason. Anytime you get a chance in the draft to get a quality player at a great value, I think you do it. I think the competition at positions in this league make your team better. Hardesty isn't the only guy back there. I think our pile at running back and at fullback this year is a real strong one."
If Hardesty does recover in two weeks his battle with Harrison could just be delayed.
Peyton Hillis, Chris Jennings and James Davis are also in the mix at running back. Lawrence Vickers is the fullback.
CAMP CALENDAR: The Browns will hold an intrasquad scrimmage at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Saturday. Training camp closes on Aug. 19.
Browns top draft pick Joe Haden signed a five-year contract on the night training camp opened, and although he did not sign his contract in time to practice the first day, he was on the field for the third overall practice.
Now Haden can get down to the business of competing for a starting job, because there is no two ways about it; getting the secondary set, especially cornerback, is a priority of training camp.
After taking Haden the Browns used their second pick on safety T.J. Ward and their fifth-round pick on safety Larry Asante. Two weeks before the draft they acquired cornerback Sheldon Brown in a trade with the Eagles.
"I think the secondary thing is going to be a really interesting camp story," team president Mike Holmgren said. "Clearly by how we drafted, we wanted to increase that pile and get some young guys in there. I like what (Mike) Adams and (Brandon) McDonald did in OTAs. I liked how those other guys practiced. I really did.
"Sheldon is a great addition. To me, I'm going to be watching that hard. That's going to be an interesting thing how that sorts itself out."
--Two punters -- Dave Zastudil and Reggie Hodges -- are in training camp. A tipoff the job might be up for grabs is Hodges and Zastudil are alternating holding for Phil Dawson on field goal attempts.
Hodges punted in the final eight games last year while Zastudil was sidelined with a knee injury.
--Coach Eric Mangini feels for the fans that have grown weary of the Browns constant losing.
"If I could press the fast forward button, I would probably get carpal tunnel syndrome from pressing it so much," Mangini said. "I want it as badly as anybody and more importantly I want to be able to provide for everybody here. It's a great, great group of people."
--Browns owner Randy Lerner and team president Mike Holmgren watch practice from a golf cart. Holmgren is so big he is easy to spot anywhere, but with a huge orange cast on his surgically repaired right foot he is impossible to miss.
Holmgren said when he coached at Green Bay and Seattle he had a rule -- no sitting. It applied to the media as well as everyone in the football organization watching practice.
"I don't want anyone to think the fact that I'm in a golf cart is the fact that I'm the president," joked Holmgren. "It's the fact that I can't walk. That's the only reason. Now, I'm going to get a lot of letters from my friends around the country if they ever see a picture of this, so I'll be in a cart for awhile."
--After the evening practice Saturday, 14-year veteran Bobby Engram was catching passes from the Jugs gun. Nose tackle Rogers stood and watched and decided to give it a try. He stood seven yards from the gun.
The speed of the balls was rapid. The first four glanced off Rogers' hands, and then he caught five straight. Then he started showing off. He got down on his knees and caught footballs shot over his head. Then he caught the ball with one hand.
"I'm trying to get my football skills together," Rogers said to no one in particular.
Rogers cannot practice because he is on P.U.P. recovering from a broken leg.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "A lot of things happened last year and I leave it at last year. This is a new year. I haven't been around this many quality linebackers since I've been here." -- Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who missed the last 10 games of 2009 with a torn pectoral.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Everybody is signed, sealed and delivered, a fact that adds to the positive vibes coming from Browns training camp. First-round pick Joe Haden was the last to sign, but the cornerback from Florida, the seventh overall pick, missed only two practices of camp, plus the rookie week that preceded it.
Even so, Coach Eric Mangini says Haden has fallen behind. Haden was slow to react at times in minicamp last month. Haden admitted he was hesitant because he was thinking too much.
"There's a lot of information that has gone in to this point," Mangini said. "We were able to spend a lot of individual time with the rookies and that's important. That's really, really important for these guys. I've had a lot of first round draft picks where the ones that have got in early tend to get a better jump. You can't get those days back, which is unfortunate."
Haden is contending for two starting jobs with Eric Wright and Sheldon Brown.
--Tony Pashos missed the start of training camp because he has a cold. John St. Clair is lining up at right tackle with the first team.
--Tight end Robert Royal is fighting for a job. He caught only 11 passes last season because he played with a dislocated finger. He is playing with more confidence this camp.
--Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie are lining up as the starting receivers. Braylon Edwards was the go-to guy the last five summers. He was traded to the Jets last October 7.
--Scott Fujita has been lining up as the weak-side linebacker. He can play inside, but for now Chris Gocong and D'Qwell Jackson are inside.
--Every training camp produces one surprise at wide receiver. This year it's Johnathan Haggerty. Realistically his best chance to win a job is on the practice squad.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Floyd Womack vs. Shawn Lauvao for the starting job at right guard: The Browns want to run the ball, and getting a solid push from the right side is essential to making that happen. Womack lined up with the first unit to start camp. He has the edge because of his experience, but the coaches like the way the rookie Lauvao is progressing.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Benjamin Watson looks like the starting tight end, but second-year player Evan Moore is catching the ball well and should not be dismissed. ... Chansi Stuckey looks comfortable now that he is in his first Browns training camp. He and 37-year-old Bobby Engram are battling for the job as slot receiver.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Brian Robiskie -- Robiskie caught the ball well in minicamp, but everyone was waiting to see how he'd perform when the pads went on. So far, so good. Quarterback Jake Delhomme praised "Robo" as a route runner. Robiskie stayed out a half hour after practice ended catching passes from the Jugs gun.
ROOKIE REPORT: First-round CB Joe Haden signed his contract the night training camp opened. ... Second-round safety T.J. Ward, 5-10, is having difficulty covering taller tight ends. ... Second-round RB Montario Hardesty is injured. ... Third-round QB Colt McCoy is working as the fourth quarterback. His opportunities are sparse. ... Third-round guard Shawn Lauvao is getting time at guard and working on the kick return team. ... Fifth-round safety Larry Asante is working in a backup role. ... Sixth-round WR Carlton Mitchell is improving as he tries to catch the ball with his hands more than with his body. ... Sixth-round DE Clifton Geathers is playing behind Kenyon Coleman. He looks quick but raw.
INJURY REPORT: RB Montario Hardesty is out at least two weeks with a twisted knee. ... DL Shaun Rogers is on P.U.P. recovering from a broken leg. ... DL C.J. Mosley is on P.U.P. recovering from an ankle injury and CB Coye Francies is on P.U.P. recovering from an unspecified injury. Team president Mike Holmgren said he expects all three to pass their physicals at some point during training camp.