Gocong out for season

Posted Aug 4, 2012

Browns linebacker Chris Gocong was lost for the year when he was injured during a team drill in Saturday morning’s practice.

During a drill in Saturday morning’s training camp practice at the team’s Berea facility, veteran Cleveland Browns linebacker Chris Gocong jumped to make a play on a ball in the end zone against tight end Jordan Cameron. While Cameron pulled down the ball, Gocong fell to the ground and favored his right leg.

Gocong was taken off the field for further evaluation, which revealed a torn Achilles tendon, according to coach Pat Shurmur. Gocong’s surgery could be as early as Monday and the injury is season-ending.

“I’m disappointed he got hurt,” Shurmur said. “He was out there practicing and Achilles injuries sometimes pop up on you. They really don’t look all that bad. He stepped wrong and it happened.

“I talked to Chris and he’s fine. We’re moving on and he understands that. My hope now is he gets back healthy quickly.”

Gocong was an integral part of the defense at the end of the 2011 season.

When veteran Scott Fujita was lost for the season with a broken hand after the team’s 23-20 loss at Cincinnati on Nov. 27, Gocong slid over to the strong side of the defense. He anchored a defense that had four goal line stops, including one on a first-and-goal situation from the two-yard line at Pittsburgh on Dec. 8, 2011.

Last year, Gocong registered 67 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, one recovered fumble and forced two others.

“It’s a great opportunity for some other guys behind him to get in there and play and get more reps,” Shurmur said. “I want to make sure the guys that fill in for him get plenty of reps and I think we’ve got plenty of time to do that. We’ve got four preseason games and plenty of practices here. Whoever ends up filling his role will have plenty of opportunities to improve.”

With Gocong out of the lineup, the Browns rotated in rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson and fourth-year professional, Kaluka Maiava. Shurmur said Johnson and Maiava are “very flexible, position-wise.”

“They really can play inside as well,” Shurmur said. “Anytime there’s an injury, it’s unfortunate what happens. It’s the unintended consequence of playing this game and as safe as you try to be, sometimes, it happens and it drives the coach nuts for sure.

“I worry about that when we come out here because I don’t want to see guys get hurt. The important thing is, when that happens, you quickly get your eye back on the ball and you get guys in there that can compete and it’s also a lesson to guys that play behind people that it’s a play away from being in there and being in there full-time. That’s what you’ve got to learn from.”

In addition to Johnson, Maiava and Emmanuel Acho, Gocong’s injury gave more playing to undrafted rookies L.J. Fort and Craig Robertson.

Fort played in 50 career games with the University of Northern Iowa, where he finished with a Football Championship Subdivision leading 184 total tackles -- an average of 14.15 per game -- last season. He was selected the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and the FCS National Defensive Player of the Year by both The College Sporting News and College Sports Madness.

Robertson was a four-year letter-winner at the University of North Texas. He registered 382 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and nine interceptions.

“Those are two guys that also have caught our eye,” Shurmur said. “They’re both guys that if they make the club are going to be immediate special teams contributors in a big way and they both made plays in the scrimmage drills. They’re two guys we’re very hopeful (for).”


Following Gocong’s injury, Shurmur felt his players responded by continuing through practice and not letting his absence distract them.

“We have enough veteran guys around here and quite frankly, anybody that’s come to our team has played enough football where they’ve seen injuries happen,” Shurmur said. “As I mentioned, it’s the unintended consequence of this game. I thought they bounced back fine.

“I don’t want an injury at any position, so we’ll just keep moving ahead. We’ll find out what’s wrong with Chris; we’ll find out how long he’ll be out and then, we’ll keep moving forward. Nothing can stop the train. We’ve got to keep going.”


For the second consecutive day, Jimmy Haslam III, who purchased a controlling interest in the Browns this past Thursday, observed practice on the field.

“He’s interested in the operation and he’s watching it with fresh eyes,” Shurmur said of Haslam. “He has questions about how we do things and I think it’s something he’s out there trying to learn and get up to speed with what we’re doing, how we do things, why we do certain drills so he can become educated on our process. I feel like he’s really excited to own this football team and I’ve enjoyed our conversations to this point.”


Shurmur said there were a lot of “coachable moments” in Saturday’s practice.

“We saw some big plays; we saw some big plays that we’ve got to make,” Shurmur said. “We saw a situation where a receiver caught a ball and then, stopped running when he could’ve scored a touchdown. He’ll never do that again, but you never go through it unless you practice it. I think that’s something we can learn from and I think that’s why you do these things. We got some situational work in and I really felt like we made some progress today.”


The Browns moved Family Day to Family Night this season. Instead of a Saturday afternoon scrimmage and/or practice at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the team will conduct its practice Wednesday night, Aug. 8, the day before the Browns leave for the preseason opener at Detroit.

“We wanted to make sure the field was in the right condition and we wanted to look at it on a week night,” Shurmur said. “We’re just kind of adjusting it to see. There’s no real firm rhyme or reason to it. We want it to be an outstanding experience for our fans and we feel like doing it at night is a good thing. It’ll be the same structure as last year. We’re just going to do it on a weeknight and see what kind of response we get.”


Third-year Browns defensive back Joe Haden collected six interceptions during his rookie season of 2010. Although he had 19 pass breakups last fall -- one more than in 2010 -- Haden did not intercept a pass in 2011.

That is something Haden has worked on throughout the early part of training camp.

“Through the offseason and as you evaluate last year, we’ve talked about that with Joe and usually, you get what you emphasize,” Shurmur said. “If it shows up in practice, that’s the best chance to have it show up in a game. He’s getting his hands on balls now and his coverage is tight. I think he’s having a good camp to this point.”

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