The Browns were poised to return their season-opening offensive line this week, but an injury to left guard Joel Bitonio has put that reunion on an indefinite hold.
Bitonio didn't miss a snap in last week's loss to the Patriots but he suffered a mid-foot sprain at some point during the game. Browns coach Hue Jackson said the talented third-year player would simply "miss some time" but the duration of his absence hasn't been settled.
"That's a tough blow to our team, but again, as you guys know, it's next man up," Jackson said Wednesday. "Nothing we can do about that. Those things happen in football. It's unfortunate. We've had a lot. I think we all know that. That's well documented, but that's part of this deal. We're just grateful, the whole team, the guys that are left standing for the opportunity to come out here and keep practicing and keep getting better."
Without Bitonio, whom veteran Joe Thomas called "one of the best guards in the NFL," the Browns have a handful of options at left guard. There are more at their disposal, too, if center Cameron Erving is healthy enough to play in his first game since Week 2.
Erving returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since he suffered a bruised lung against the Ravens. Jackson wasn't quite ready to deem Erving as a lock to play Sunday against the Titans but was encouraged by his progress.
"Those guys that have had some physical issues, I'll know more about them tomorrow," Jackson said. "I don't want to give you any information that might not be right. Let's find out where we are tomorrow with a lot of these guys."
With Erving at center, the Browns would have four players available to fill the two guard spots. Veteran John Greco figures to have one of them while the other will go to either Alvin Bailey, rookie Spencer Drango or Jonathan Cooper, who was claimed off waivers from the Patriots on Tuesday. Bailey has started two games this season at right guard, the spot Greco vacated to fill in for Erving at center.
Whoever it is will be a part of Cleveland's fourth different offensive line combination of the season.
"Whoever we play or put out there is going to be ready to play, and they have to go get the job done," Jackson said. "That is part of what we do."