By Tom Withers
AP Sports Writer
BEREA — Rookie Cody Kessler uncoiled an ice wrap around his upper body as Charlie Whitehurst limped by with an elastic sleeve on his left knee.
Two more Browns quarterbacks are black, blue and beaten up.
A day after Kessler and Whitehurst were both injured in a 33-13 loss to the New England Patriots, Cleveland’s quarterback situation was as messy and unclear as it has been in many weeks.
And around here, that’s saying something.
Kessler is recovering from a painful injury to his chest and ribs when he was drilled by linebacker Dont’a Hightower in the first quarter.
But after X-rays on Kessler did not reveal any breaks, Browns coach Hue Jackson said Monday there’s a chance that the third-round draft pick, who vaulted up the depth chart after Robert Griffin III (shoulder) and Josh McCown (collarbone) were injured in the first two weeks, will practice this week and play Sunday at Tennessee.
“I’m sure it’s a pain tolerance issue, every day is going to change,” said Jackson, who has endured a season full of hardship in his first season with Cleveland.
“It is today, it is tomorrow and practice is Wednesday. We will see where he is then.”
Whitehurst may not be as ready. After becoming the fifth quarterback to play in five games for the Browns this season, he hyperextended his knee in the final minutes and is listed day to day.
For a change, though, it’s not all bad news for the Browns.
McCown has been cleared to practice and could be in uniform against the Titans. The 37-year-old McCown wants to play after spending the past three weeks watching his teammates come up short.
“Anytime you find yourself in a situation like our team is where it’s gone this way and you’re 0-5, I think it’s all hands on deck, and you’ve got to want to help,” he said. “You watch tape from yesterday and you watch the effort that guys put forth and they’re battling, and you just want to be a part of it.”
Jackson may finally have more than one option this week.
“We’ll have three guys standing out there (at practice),” he quipped. “So we’ll be able to pick somebody out of the group.”
At the rate Cleveland’s QBs are falling, it may be hard to find a volunteer.
McCown has been out since breaking his left collarbone in Week 2 against Baltimore. He showed incredible toughness by playing three quarters with the fracture, and less than a month later said it’s realistic he’ll face the Titans.
“Yeah, I’m going to practice Wednesday, and that’s the next step to this thing,” he said. “So we’ll see how it plays out.
“But I’m looking forward to that part of it. When you’re kind of going through what we’re going through, just to be out there on the practice field and to get back moving around like that, it’s exciting for me. And then we’ll see where it goes. But I’m looking forward to helping any way I can and getting back out there with the guys.”
If Kessler and McCown are both ready, Jackson’s decision gets more complicated.
Does he go with Kessler, who has shown growth in three starts and could develop into the team’s long-term answer at QB? Or does he return to McCown, the steady veteran and leader who has endeared himself to teammates and may give the Browns their best chance to win?
Jackson must wait to see how both players practice before he decides.
McCown’s return to practice is a needed positive jolt for the young and winless Browns, who until Sunday’s blowout have been in every game.
“It’s big,” center John Greco said of the QB’s return. “I know Josh. I’m sure he wanted to play that following week.
“But now that he’s got some rest it’ll be good to have his leadership out there with us actually on the field. He’s out there as a vocal leader, but his physical presence is huge for this team and if he’s out there it’s awesome for us.”
NOTES: C Cam Erving will return to practice after missing four games with a bruised lung sustained in the opener. Erving’s loss forced the Browns to move Greco to center. “I’m definitely excited to get back out there,” Erving said.
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