BEREA—When Ahtyba Rubin missed practice Wednesday, it signified that there's a good chance that the Browns will start two rookies Sunday against the Bengals at defensive tackle.
Rubin was injured in last Sunday's loss to the Giants and was in the locker room after the game in a walking boot.
With Phil Taylor still on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list until at least after this week's game, three rookies are the remaining defensive tackles on the roster.
"If they are asked to play more than they have, they'll do well," Pat Shurmur said. "They've played and have five games under their belt. I'm confident they will answer the bell."
Billy Winn is already listed as the starter in Taylor's place, while John Hughes is Rubin's backup at the other. The third rookie is Ishmaa'ily Kitchen from Kent State.
Winn (6-4, 295) was drafted in the sixth-round by the Browns from Boise State. He has started all five games and has nine tackles and two pass break ups. He has yet to record a sack. His best game was against the Ravens when he had five tackles.
Bengals' coach Marvin Lewis was asked about Winn and Hughes.
"They are doing a good job," Lewis said. "I thought Winn was a good prospect coming out of college. He has done a good of job learning at the NFL level. Sometimes, I like to watch (Winn), because I know I was right on him."
Hughes (6-2, 320) played his college ball at the University of Cincinnati and the Browns selected him in the third-round. He had his first career sack against the Bengals, while having his best all-around game with six tackles. Hughes has played in all five games, but has yet to start. He has 11 tackles with a sack.
"Hughes fits in there with those big strong guys," Lewis said. "It's a new game for those big guys in there and he's doing a good job."
Kitchen (6-1, 330) has played in all five games and has seven tackles, including three last week against the Giants.
After the Giants rushed for 243 yards last week, including Ahmad Bradshaw gashing them for 200 yards, the Browns are looking for ways to stop the Bengals running game. The Browns are 26th in the NFL in stopping the run.
"(The Giants) had situations where we could've minimized the big runs," Shurmur said. "It is team defense and you have to have somebody in every gap. We're going to sure work on it."
The Browns held BenJarvus Green-Ellis to 75 yards on 21 carries in the first game with the Bengals.
To compound the problem, D'Qwell Jackson missed Wednesday's practice with a head injury suffered last week against the Giants. Bradshaw picked up 135 of his yards after Jackson left the game. His status for the game, like Rubin, is unknown.
Fujita Lashes Out at Goodell: LB Scott Fujita had his suspension reduced from three games to one by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but Fujita was not happy with the tone of the letter he received from Goodell.
"For me, the issue of player health and safety is personal," Fujita said after practice. "I'm pleased the commissioner has finally acknowledged that I never participated in any so called ‘bounty' program, as I've said for the past seven months."
Fujita said he had a very good meeting with Goodell in New York and thought the suspension would be dropped.
"For me to be re-suspended for not speaking up against my defensive coordinator," he said. "That makes no sense to me.
"I have to admit the condescending tone set me over the edge," he said. "The condescending tone set me off. I said ‘Enough is enough.'
Fujita said he wrote his letter to Goodell Tuesday night, but his wife told him he should sleep on it before he sent it.
"I did and that was probably good," he said smiling.
Goodell said that Fujita's conduct was ‘detrimental to the league' for not speaking up against the ‘bounty' program while it was going on.
"My track record on the issue of player health and safety speaks for itself."
Fujita practiced Wednesday, but might still appeal or serve his suspension for Sunday's game with the Bengals. He said he is discussing his options on appealing the process.
"I'll be playing Sunday," he said.
Smith Back: Shurmur doesn't usually give much information on injuries but in the course of a question about TE Alex Smith, Shurmur did say that he anticipated that TE Alex Smith would play this week after missing three games with a concussion.
"It took a little while to heal up," Smith said after practicing for the first time in three weeks.
He said it was his first concussion. He was injured in the first game with the Bengals and has missed the past three games.
Regarding LB D'Qwell Jackson (head), DL Ahtyba Rubin (leg), WR Jordan Norwood, Shurmur didn't disclose anything new. As is Shurmur's custom, he is not disclosing injury status, other than the NFL mandatory injury report that comes out on Wednesday afternoon.
Jackson, Rubin, Norwood, WR Travis Benjamin (hamstring), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring) and DB Dimitri Patterson all did not practice.
Jimmy's Turn: Jimmy Haslam is expected to be approved as the Browns new owner at the NFL league meetings next Wednesday in Chicago. He has said he doesn't expect to make any changes until the season is over.
Losing Ways: The Browns will try to avoid losing a franchise record 12 games in a row Sunday when they play the Bengals. Besides losing all five games this season, the Browns have lost their last 11 games dating back to the final six of the 2011 season. The Browns last win was at home over the Jaguars, 14-10, on Nov. 20 2011.
In addition, the Browns will try to snap their eight game losing streak in the AFC North under Shurmur. The Browns were 0-6 in 2011 and lost to the Bengals and Ravens already this year.
Overall, the Browns have lost 12 in a row in the division dating back to their last win over the Bengals, 23-20, on Oct. 3 2010.
Windsor Back: WR Rod Windsor was signed to the practice squad. The Browns released LB Ben Jacobs from the practice squad to make room for him. Also, the Browns waived DL Marcus Benard from injured reserve. Windsor was cut in the final roster moves after catching five passes for 51 yards and a touchdown in the preseason. With Massaquoi (hamstring), Benjamin (hamstring) and Norwood (undisclosed) injured, Windsor might be insurance if those can't play. WR Josh Cooper is also on the practice squad.
Captain Trent: Rookie RB Trent Richardson will be the Browns fourth captain this week. He is the first rookie to be selected this year by the three regular captains: K Phil Dawson, OL Joe Thomas and LB D'qwell Jackson.
Labor Day wasn't a day off for the team or the head coach.