Starting quarterback Josh McCown sat out today's practice with a shoulder injury, but three defensive starters returned to practice Wednesday.
Joe Haden, Tashaun Gipson, and Craig Robertson all practiced today, bringing a welcome sigh of relief for Cleveland fans who have watched the defense struggle in their absence.
Following a week and a half stint in the NFL's concussion protocol, Haden has been cleared and will likely play on Sunday, barring a setback. Gipson and Robertson have recovered enough from ankle afflictions to return to the field on Wednesday. Gipson has missed the last three games, while Robertson has been out for the past four contests.
The return of these three critical players could make a big difference against a high-powered Arizona offense.
Now, onto McCown.
The 36-year-old quarterback rested his aching shoulder on Wednesday, but head coach Mike Pettine seems deadset on playing McCown on Sunday.
"We will see if can go tomorrow, and if he can't, I think a big part of what we are doing now is the walkthrough stuff," Pettine told local media. "The good thing about it is we are carrying over a lot of concept stuff that he has practiced and stuff that he's throw in games."
As for the importance of McCown practicing before playing on Sunday?
"I wouldn't put a ton of stock into it," Pettine said.
Calling McCown "tough as nails," Pettine stated he will have a decision at the end of the week.
As ESPN.com's Pat McManamon wrote in stark terms, "It almost sounds like the Browns would prefer to play McCown even if he's lying on a gurney with his foot in a traction and arm in a cast."
Johnny Manziel received the reps as the starter in practice today. The second-year quarterback was also tentatively slated to meet with NFL investigators today about his October 12 domestic incident, which could lead to punishment under the league's personal conduct policy.
"There's a sense of urgency to it, and that meeting is imminent,'' Pettine said of the meeting today.
The return of three key defenders is great news, but the Browns' approach at quarterback is anything but good.