Joe Haden made his first appearance of the week on the Browns indoor practice field Friday, but it was of the limited variety. The Pro Bowl cornerback is officially considered questionable for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers because of a shoulder injury.
"There's still a good amount of time for it to quiet down for him, so we'll see how he feels on Sunday," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "We'll just have to see how it is. I know it was something that really bothered him as the game went on. That's why we had to take him out. It's improved since, but it's a time thing. We just don't know if, by the time Sunday comes along, it's been enough time."
Haden injured his shoulder during the first quarter of last week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. An injury later in the game to rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert further decimated the secondary, but the group held its own against A.J. Green and the rest of the Bengals' receivers.
Buster Skrine guarded Green, one of the NFL's top receivers, on most plays. Green finished with five catches for 49 yards.
Skrine, who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, will match up against Panthers' star rookie Kelvin Benjamin (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) if Haden can't play. Benjamin needs just 42 yards to hit 1,000 for the season to go along with nine touchdowns.
"He showed it last week. That was the one positive coming out of the game. They wanted to throw deep on us. I think they took seven or eight deep shots, and we defended all of them. Most of them were on 'Bus'," Pettine said. "I think Buster's very underrated, and he's quietly going about (his business).
"I know he had a couple hiccups here and there, but if you just look at his overall body of work I think he's been outstanding."
If Haden can't play, the Browns will be without three of the five defensive backs they typically use for nickel situations. Safety Tashaun Gipson will miss his fourth consecutive game Sunday with a knee injury while K'Waun Williams will miss his second because of a hamstring injury.
Pettine said Gilbert would start in "some of the groupings" as Cleveland's second cornerback if Haden couldn't play. The coach continued to praise rookie Pierre Desir, who received the first defensive snaps of his NFL career last week.
"Coach always preaches next man up and that's what we're doing," Skrine said. "Couple of guys are down, people got to fill in, everybody getting paid to play. That's how we look at it."
Full injury update
OUT: DB K'Waun Williams (hamstring), FS Tashaun Gipson (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Gary Barnidge (ribs), LB Karlos Dansby (knee), CB Joe Haden (shoulder), WR Marlon Moore (knee), CB Robert Nelson (hamstring), LB Jabaal Sheard (foot)
PROBABLE: WR Andrew Hawkins (illness)
(New Browns kicker Garrett Hartley missed Friday's practice for personal reasons but will be ready for Sunday's game, Pettine said.)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Carrington Byndom (hamstring), LB A.J. Klein (ankle), G Amini Silatoli (knee), RB DeAngelo Williams (hand)
PROBABLE: LB Thomas Davis (knee), S Roman Harper (thigh), QB Cam Newton (back)
Newton expected to play
As Pettine and the rest of the Browns anticipated, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is expected to be back in the lineup after missing last week's game with a back injury. Newton was injured in a car accident last week but has been a full participant in practice the past two days.
Coach Ron Rivera stopped short of naming Newton the starter but it appears to be a formality at this point.
Newton, who also missed the season opener, has thrown for 2,812 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while running for 425 yards and three more scores.
"Their offense, it's a large inventory," Pettine said. "They have a lot of things they can go to, and we truly don't know how he is - whether he's full go and they can open everything up with all the quarterback runs and expose him as they've done. We've prepared for what they've put on tape."
Center of attention
Though he alluded to a potential change earlier in the week, Pettine said Thursday that Ryan Seymour would likely make his third consecutive start at center.
Seymour split repetitions with Nick McDonald, whom he replaced midway through the Browns' loss earlier this month at Buffalo, throughout the week at practice.
"If I had to say today, that's where we're going to go," Pettine said. "I wouldn't etch that in stone, though."
Seymour became the fourth different Brown to start at center this season. Veteran Alex Mack has been sidelined since the fifth game of the season with a lower leg injury.
"You don't replace an Alex Mack," Pettine said. "You've got to replace him with one player, but there's going to be a definite drop-off. It's something that we've had to deal with. Those guys have stepped in and played well, but when you lose a player there's going to be an inevitable drop-off."
Asked why rookie running back Glenn Winston hadn't been active in the Browns' past two games, Pettine shifted the focus to Shaun Draughn, who was acquired earlier in the month and promptly found a niche on special teams.
"I think he brought a different skill set, a different mentality to that," Pettine said. "When we make that judgment each week of, 'Hey, who were the three guys that we want up,' that's been the answer each time. Glenn is a guy that we think has a bright future in this league. It just hasn't worked out for him yet that he's been out there on offense and gotten touches."
Draughn, a fourth-year pro out of North Carolina, has yet to carry the ball with the Browns but he returned two kicks against Cincinnati for 36 yards. He spent his first two seasons in Kansas City, was with Baltimore for three games last year and logged snaps with Chicago and San Diego this season before landing with the Browns.