Good injury news
- Coach Mike Pettine dropped an encouraging bombshell of optimism to open his press conference: not one injured player has been ruled out for the Atlanta Falcons game this Sunday.
- Jabaal Sheard got a second opinion on his foot injury and he's now been ruled as a day-to-day. On Monday, Pettine and the staff were under the impression Sheard might need season-ending surgery.
- "It surprised all of us," Pettine said with happiness in his tone.
- The even bigger surprise is Karlos Dansby's knee injury. Some unconfirmed reports had Dansby with an MCL injury, which could take up to 4-6 weeks to heal. Pettine said knowing how in-tune Dansby is with his body, he's not ruling him out yet.
- There was one slight jolt on the injury report. Ahtyba Rubin now has a knee injury to go along with an ankle that plagued him earlier in the season. Also, Jordan Cameron (concussion) likely will be out of practice on Wednesday.
Falcons worried about the Brown's speedy receivers
- During his conference call with the Cleveland media, Atlanta head coach Mike Smith repeatedly mentioned how the Browns have one of the fastest groups of receivers in the league. He's right. Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon all possess breakaway speed.
- Smith said the Falcons' weakness this season has been giving up big plays through the air. Atlanta is ranked 32nd in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (281.2). Even though the Browns are known as a running team, Cleveland is ranked 14th in the league in passing yards per game (244.5). Brian Hoyer has proven he can beat teams through the air.
- "Certainly, we have not played pass defense like we're capable of playing it, and we have not been efficient," said Smith.
- Starting cornerback Robert Alford suffered a broken wrist last Sunday. His replacement, Robert McClain, gave up a 47-yard touchdown to Panthers receiver Philly Brown last Sunday.
- Desmond Trufant is the Falcons other cornerback, and he's shown he can be a lockdown corner at times this season. Former Seahawk and Redskin Josh Wilson will also contribute in the secondary.
- Pettine worked with Smith and Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan in the early 2000s with the Baltimore Ravens. All parties involved are familiar with the style of coaching each presents, and are eager to play each other.
- "[I] have a great deal of respect for both of those guys," said Pettine. "I have a reasonable feel for what they're doing defensively and, knowing those guys, they'll have us schemed up pretty well. Those guys always play well fundamentally, so our offense will have to be very efficient for us to stick with the formula."
- Smith took his compliments a step further, stating an award could be coming Pettine's way if the Browns continue to play like this.
- "Mike is an outstanding football coach. He has a great mind for not only the defense but for the entire football team," said Smith. "Mike is a very demanding coach, and the players have responded extremely well. They're 6-4. They're right in the middle of a battle for a playoff spot in the AFC. He's done an outstanding job. He's got to be considered Coach of the Year in my opinion."
- The Browns are doing their best to replicate what they will see on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Practice this week will be held inside and the music will be cranked up louder than normal.
- "I know that place will be revved up," Pettine said of Atlanta's home crowd. "I've played a bunch of games down there. It'll be a very hostile environment."
- Tashaun Gipson's name came up from the Falcons side of things more than any other player on the Browns' defense. Gipson's six interceptions are still tops in the NFL and according to the Pro Bowl voting, he's on pace for a trip to Arizona later in January.
- "He's a game-wreaker," said coach Smith. "I think that one thing about a defense that Mike Pettine's been around – we played at the Jets, played him when he was in Buffalo – is they're very opportunistic."
- "Those safeties can fill over the top and make plays," said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. "It's a very good defense - very good back end of that defense."