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Browns' Joel Bitonio not worried about Pro Bowl exclusion


If Mike Pettine and Joe Thomas didn't know the process so well, they might be more irritated about rookie guard Joel Bitonio being left off this year's Pro Bowl roster.

Thomas' Pro Bowl inclusion as a rookie is the exception, not the rule. No matter how well a player performs in his first NFL season, it's tough to garner the recognition and respect required to land on one of the all-star game's squads.

Of the 86 players to land on this year's Pro Bowl rosters, only three were rookies. Dallas guard Zack Martin, a first-round pick, was the only rookie offensive lineman in the group.

"He definitely did enough to deserve it," said Thomas, who became the first offensive lineman in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons. "Especially making it your first time, it's tough because you have to go from an unknown person to being somebody that everybody in the NFL -- not just the AFC because we voted for the entire NFL -- knows.

"I think he's building his reputation and hopefully this will be motivation for him going into next year."

Bitonio, a second-round draft pick out of Nevada, has started every game and hasn't missed a snap during his rookie season. According to's position rankings, Bitonio has graded out second-best among guards, sitting behind only Marshal Yanda, who landed on the Pro Bowl roster.

Asked who, perhaps, should have joined Thomas, safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Joe Haden at this year's Pro Bowl, Pettine mentioned Bitonio first and also included safety Donte Whitner, who is an alternate.

"It's tough because a lot of guys, it usually takes a little bit of time when they first start to play well, but Bitonio I know is a guy who's played at a high level all year," Pettine said. "I've gotten a lot of comments from opposing coaches, guys that I know that have watched the tape and just seen how good of a player he is."

If you anticipated Bitonio to complain about not making the team, you haven't been following how he's acted from the moment he arrived in Berea.

Bitonio -- who noted he's heard from a few opposing coaches and players, but not many -- joked that he doesn't often hear compliments from Thomas face-to-face because "he wants to make sure I'm still doing good." He appreciated others stumping for him on his behalf but didn't deem it necessary.

"I know I'm appreciated around here and I think the team sees I'm going to come in ready to work no matter the circumstances," Bitonio said. "I'm good with that."

QB update

Pettine had no further clarity on the Browns' situation at quarterback before Wednesday's practice but said he'd know more when the team regroups Friday.

Rookie Connor Shaw, who has been on the practice squad all season, took the first-team snaps at Tuesday's practice, which was essentially a walk-through because the Browns were only two days removed from Sunday's loss at Carolina. Pettine said he expected Shaw to execute and do his job if he's called upon to start at Baltimore.

"To me, it's a lot to ask a guy that's been playing offense off of cards ever since the preseason," Pettine said. "This week rolls by pretty quick. If we've got to scale some things back we will. We'll expect him to go out there and execute to the best of his ability."

Veteran Tyler Thigpen, who was added to the roster Tuesday, has worked behind Shaw while Brian Hoyer rests his ailing shoulder. Rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel was placed on injured reserve Wednesday to officially end his season.

Another roster move

Long snapper Charley Hughlett was added to the roster and defensive lineman John Hughes was officially activated from injured reserve. Defensive lineman Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, who injured his leg against the Panthers, was placed on injured reserve.

Pettine said Christian Yount will remain the long snapper against the Ravens. Hughlett was on the Browns' practice squad Week 5 and has spent time with the Cowboys, Patriots, Jaguars and Chiefs since landing in the NFL in 2012.

"In (General Manager Ray Farmer's) world you're going to look toward next year if a guy that you could see potentially be a competitor for you, a guy that can come in and be a viable part of your competition at a position and you get an opportunity to get him you can go ahead and make that move," Pettine said.

Injury updates

Haden, who missed the Panthers game with a shoulder injury, was among the players limited at Wednesday's practice. He said he wasn't sure about his status for Sunday's season finale.

"We're working on it," he said. "It's getting better every day. I'm just trying to see how much I can go."

Tight end Gary Barnidge (ribs), defensive lineman Desmond Bryant (thumb), wide receiver Marlon Moore (knee), linebacker Jabaal Sheard (foot) and defensive back K'Waun Williams (hamstring) were also limited. Defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin (ankle), center Ryan Seymour (hamstring) and Thomas (rest) did not practice.

Quote to note

"I told Joe Thomas that they're going to change the name of the (Pro Bowl). They're going to change it to the Joe Thomas Invitational or the Joe Thomas and Friends Pro Bowl." -- Pettine on Thomas making his eighth Pro Bowl in as many seasons

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