The news wasn't easy to stomach for Miles Austin, and it was even tougher on his Browns' teammates, but both are prepared to move forward as the veteran receiver recovers from a kidney injury.
Austin's wife, Stacy, was with him since he went straight from Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium to the Erie County Medical Center after the Browns' 26-10 loss to the Bills. On Tuesday, as it became clear that Austin would be soon added to the injured reserved list, coach Mike Pettine and a number of Austin's teammates reached out to him to offer their support.
Austin was more than happy to keep them on the phone.
"That's my guy, that's my road dog … I had to reach out to him," said linebacker Karlos Dansby, whose locker is next to Austin's. "It's a tough injury. He really can't do nothing but let his body heal."
It's unclear when Austin sustained the injury. He was on the field for most snaps and finished with a team-high nine catches for 86 yards. He'd caught at least five passes in three of the past four games and is second on the team with 47 receptions and 568 yards on the season.
Austin, who signed with the Browns in May after seven seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, returned to Cleveland late Wednesday after a three-day hospital stay.
"He's obviously bummed but in as good of spirits as he could be," Pettine said earlier Wednesday, stressing Austin's extended hospital stay was "very precautionary."
"It is very unfortunate because he was a guy who really embodies what we're trying to build here. We talk about 'Play like a Brown' and how guys handle themselves on and off the field and how they interact with teammates and with the staff and just their level of play and how they approach the game, everything A to Z.
"We couldn't have asked a guy to come in and be a better example for our young players, while at the same time being a very productive member of our receiving corps, as well."
Austin's 2014 season is over, and the Browns once again will need to do more with less at wide receiver. That's nothing new for the group, which has been at full strength only twice this season. Players such as rookie Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin likely will have to carry more of the load, as the Browns added running back Shaun Draughn, not another receiver, to fill Austin's roster spot.
Marlon Moore, who was back at practice Wednesday after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury, and Rodney Smith -- a second-year pro out of Florida State who has been inactive for the past three games – were both mentioned by Pettine as two additional options to the Browns' passing attack, which takes on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Gabriel, who shined during Josh Gordon's suspension but has been targeted just twice in the past two games, might have earned a place on Austin's speed dial list after the past few days.
"He's like a big brother to me. I hate to see that happen to him. We're pushing for him," Gabriel said. "Every day I've called him, I've texted him. I think I am calling too much. I'm starting to get on his nerves.
"It's the same old Miles. Still teaching me how to do a route right or set this man up."
Austin's reach has extended beyond the wide receivers. Running back Terrance West, who had a costly fumble in last week's loss, has been in constant contact with him.
"Miles told me, 'Man, big bro, it's about how you bounce back from your mistakes,'" West said. "I talked to him on the sideline when I [fumbled]. I talked to him yesterday and he said he was in good spirits. Miles is a good guy on and off the field."