BEREA, Ohio - Browns receivers have gone from dropping passes to dropping off the practice list.
Key receivers Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin were among six players missing practice on Monday. Safety T.J. Ward also was absent after having surgery on his right thumb.
That's not exactly how Cleveland (0-4) wants to prepare for its upcoming road game against the Super Bowl champion Giants.
"We'll put the guys on the field that can play, make the roster as good as we can make it," coach Pat Shurmur said. "If we have to use three tight ends, all right."
Tight end Alex Smith also did not practice. He was inactive with a concussion Thursday during a 23-16 loss in Baltimore, when Cribbs sustained a concussion. It was a scary scene as Cribbs lay motionless on the field for several moments after his helmet flew off and he hit the turf with the back of his head.
"It's the nature of the business," quarterback Brandon Weeden said. "We're hoping for good news on Mo, Josh and Travis. If not, the other guys will have to step up."
Massaquoi also was inactive with a strained hamstring. Rookie Benjamin replaced him at wide receiver and filled in for Cribbs on special teams. Shurmur refused to disclose what kept Benjamin from practicing, though the fourth-round pick had his right knee wrapped on Friday.
Ward's surgery was similar to what safety Ray "Bubba" Ventrone had after he broke his hand Sept. 9 in the season opener. Ventrone came back two weeks later.
"Same procedure Bubba had, and he's back," Shurmur said.
The only receivers practicing while the media were allowed to watch were Greg Little, Jordan Norwood, Josh Gordon and rookie Josh Cooper, who is on the practice squad. Little and Norwood had costly drops in Baltimore, but Weeden would not blame them.
"I'm happy with our receivers," said the rookie, who went 25 for 52 for 320 yards against the Ravens. "They battle. They work hard. They don't complain. I think we've all got to get better. There's not another group I'd want to work through it with."
Norwood had four catches for 56 yards in Baltimore. He felt he should have done more.
"Any ball thrown to me I feel I should catch," he said. "I'm happy with my effort, the entire team's effort, but I should catch anything I get my hands on."
The best solution to moving the football against the Giants (2-2) may be to hand it to running back Trent Richardson.
"We've got to find a way to get the ball to No. 33 somehow," Weeden said of the No. 3 overall pick who caught four passes for 57 yards against the Ravens, but was held to 47 yards on 14 carries by Baltimore's stout defense.
Gordon, the second-round pick in the supplemental draft, will have to step up if the receiving corps remains thin. He has seven catches for 93 yards. Weeden said that the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder has the size and speed to make an impact.
"He's getting better," Weeden said. "He's playing faster than he was at the beginning. We need him to make plays because he's a mismatch."
Yet Gordon is very inexperienced after missing a good deal of playing time in college due to off-field issues. He is aware that injuries have presented him with an opportunity.
"Definitely, definitely," Gordon said. "There is attrition with guys in the league. The guys behind feel the pressure to step up and make plays. I feel pretty comfortable. I think I can get in there and make something happen."
A possible option could be to activate Cooper as a receiver and returner.
"He's been running the (scout) offense and there are a lot of similar plays," Shurmur said. "I've seen him improve."
Weeden was Cooper's teammate at Oklahoma State and has confidence that he can help.
"I think so," Weeden said. "I don't know a thing about special teams, but I think he's willing to do whatever. He's a good player. He's a great player. He did all those things at Oklahoma State for us. He's a football player. He's Wes Welker type. Everybody compares him to Wes. They're just football players. They have knack for making plays."
Shurmur addressed the team and veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown said the second-year coach did not sugar-coat his message.
"He went position by position and targeted areas in which we need to improve," Brown said. I think everybody knows when they do something well and don't need to be told. Players definitely need to be corrected where things go bad. That's why you need a coach."
NOTES: Rookie DB Tashaun Gipson (knee) also did not practice, but DB Usama Young (knee) did. "He (Young) looks good," Shurmur said. ... CB Joe Haden still has one more game to serve in his four-game suspension from the NFL for a failed drug test. ... FS Eric Hagg could return to the starting lineup if Young has to replace Ward. Hagg was inactive the past two games.
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