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News & Notes: Browns 'working through' punter options for Sunday vs. Ravens

The Browns placed P Jamie Gillan on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday and could explore external options for a possible quick replacement

Mike Priefer said Thursday inside the fieldhouse at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus that the Browns have always been prepared to act quickly if an emergency arises with their specialists.

That scenario occurred earlier that afternoon. The Browns placed punter Jamie Gillan on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, which puts his status for Sunday's game against the Ravens in doubt. 

Priefer said the Browns will act quickly to find a replacement in time for the game and expressed confidence in Executive Vice President and GM Andrew Berry to sign a player who can get the job done, if needed.

"We're working through it," Priefer said. "We've had a short list, and we always have a short list because of injuries or anything that can happen. Andrew and his staff are working through that right now."

Priefer said "there's a few" punters on the market the Browns could pick from and that he planned to sit down with other front office members later Thursday to watch film and evaluate options. Among the factors they're also considering is how well a player could hold the ball for field goals and extra points — one of the other key roles Gillan held on special teams — and how well the player has performed in cold, non-optimal punting conditions.

"I think it'd probably be a veteran guy," he said. "We'll watch some tape a little bit later today to compare guys and see what we think. The punting is important, the holding is important. It's all important."

Replacements for Walker

In addition to Gillan, the Browns placed LB Anthony Walker Jr. on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, and they're planning on relying on internal options to fill the possible void for Sunday.

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods said Malcolm Smith, who has been one of the Browns' leading tacklers in nearly every game this season, could see a bigger role, in addition to rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Elijah Lee. LBs Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson are available for Woods, too, although it's worth noting that Smith previously filled in for Walker in Weeks 2-4 when Walker was out with a hamstring injury.

"Malcolm is a veteran," Woods said. "He's played a long time in this league and in this system for us on and off based on injuries. I'm very comfortable regardless of the situation."

Covering Andrews

The Browns surrendered two big plays in their previous game against the Ravens, and both were passes caught by the same player: TE Mark Andrews.

Andrews caught four passes for 65 yards and one touchdown. One pass was a 39-yard grab that was miraculously caught despite Andrews drawing a pass interference penalty. The other was a 13-yard touchdown catch that came three plays later when Andrews was wide open in the end zone. 

The Browns defense has frequently pointed to both plays when asked where they could've been better in the 16-10 defeat, so it makes a lot of sense for the group to place an even higher emphasis on guarding Baltimore's Pro Bowl tight end for the rematch Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium. 

"I think all across the league, the tight end is like the quarterback's best friend," S John Johnson III said. "They are a big target, big catch radius and they can get mismatches a lot so it is not a complete surprise that is his favorite target. We just have to understand where he wants to go and that is where he has been going, and play off of that."

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