Browns rookie QB Connor Shaw to start vs. Ravens


Between Tuesday and Friday, nothing changed for Connor Shaw.

The undrafted rookie was excited Tuesday by the prospect he'd start for the Browns on Sunday against the Ravens and approached the week of practice as if it'd happen. That he was officially named the starter after Friday's practice did little to affect the even-keeled Shaw's emotions and feelings about his otherwise unexpected NFL debut in Baltimore.

"I'm just going to go play," Shaw said. "With my capability and my style of play, nothing's going to change. I'm not in garnet and black anymore. I'm in white and brown and orange. It's football at the end of the day."

Brian Hoyer, who started 13 of 15 games this season, did not participate in Friday's practice, Cleveland's third of the week, and is listed as doubtful for the season finale. Veteran Tyler Thigpen was added to the roster Tuesday to pad the position's depth while rookie Duke Johnson Jr. was added to injured reserve early in the week because of a hamstring injury.

Shaw, a three-year starter at South Carolina, has been a member of the Browns' practice squad since the beginning of the season. He'll be officially elevated to the active roster Saturday, coach Mike Pettine said.

"It's a challenge. You can't sugarcoat that, but at the same time, we look forward to it," Pettine said. "If we go out and perform at all the other positions well, that's going to minimize the impact. If we can stick to our formula, we still feel good about going down there."

With injuries to his shoulder and bicep, Hoyer hasn't been completely ruled out, but the probability of him seeing the field against the Ravens seems slim outside of an emergency situation. Pettine said Hoyer could probably make underneath throws but would struggle with deeper passes.

That's why Shaw took every first-team snap throughout the week while Thigpen worked with the twos.

"The guys respect him because they've seen how hard he's worked," Pettine said. "It was good for him to get out there. As you can see, he made some plays with his feet. I know (offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) will have a plan that will take advantage of what he does well."

When it pertains to mobility, Shaw didn't carry quite the acclaim as Manziel did at Texas A&M, but he was a constant threat to pick up first downs with his feet. Over three seasons as the Gamecocks' starter, Shaw piled up 1,518 rushing yards -- a total that is a bit skewed because sacks are counted as negative rushing yards for college quarterbacks -- and 17 rushing touchdowns.

At the NFL Combine, Shaw ran the third-fastest 40-yard dash among quarterbacks, edging Manziel by two-hundredths of a second. Shanahan said he regularly messes with Manziel about it, but admitted Manziel is probably a little quicker than Shaw.

Still, the overall philosophy of Cleveland's offense won't change much with Shaw under center, though the number of plays will probably drop because of the limited amount of time Shaw's had to prepare. Outside of one play, Shanahan said, there were little differences when Manziel took over for Hoyer, and the same can be said now that Shaw's taking over for both.

"You don't want to put a guy in a situation where he's doing plays for the first time live out on the field. You try not to put as much in," Shanahan said. "You put stuff he's comfortable with, but at the same time. you've got to have a few plays in there that if the game does go a different direction, you still give him a chance to win."

A quarterback in Shaw's shoes last week had some unexpected success against the same Ravens defense he'll face Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Case Keenum was signed off the St. Louis Rams practice squad just days before he led the Texans to a 25-13 victory over Baltimore. Keenum's numbers didn't jump off the page -- 20-of-44, 185 yards and an interception -- but he did enough to collect the first NFL win of his career.

Shaw, who brushed off the similarities to what Keenum faced, admitted he'll have to deal with some nerves over the next 48 hours.

"I get a little bit anxious before any game, just like any athlete would, but once you step on the field, in the first couple plays, it all goes away and you're just playing football like you always have," Shaw said. "I couldn't imagine a better team to do it against. It'll be a challenge, but I'm excited for the opportunity."

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