BEREA, Ohio - Just when it couldn't get any worse for the woeful Cleveland Browns, it got worse.
The team has been sacked by the flu.
On Wednesday, 12 players, including Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers and five other starters, missed practice with flulike symptoms as the team began installing the game plan for Sunday's matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
Coach Eric Mangini scaled back the workout in hopes of keeping his healthy players from getting sick. He's also emphasizing preventive measures to stop the virus from spreading deeper through the team. If players are showing any symptoms, the Browns are sending them home.
"We're being really aggressive preventatively," he said. "If there's any sign of it and we think it's heading that way, we'd much rather try to minimize the effects on the player and also possibly the exposure to the rest of the group."
Mangini implied the sick players had not yet been tested for H1N1 virus. He said some of the cases were new, and he might not be able to reveal any test results because of medical privacy laws.
As the Browns were practicing, a large box with white pharmacy bags containing Tamiflu, a prescribed medicine to treat and prevent flu, was delivered to the team's headquarters.
The Browns' sick players are: Rogers, running back Jerome Harrison, center Alex Mack, cornerback Anthony Madison, safety Brodney Pool, tight end Robert Royal, wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, linebacker Jason Trusnik, defensive end Brian Schaefering, fullback Lawrence Vickers, defensive end Corey Williams and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.
Mangini is hoping his players recover in time for Sunday's game, but if they aren't healthy, the NFL has roster provisions to protect teams overwhelmed by swine flu. League spokesman Greg Aiello said all teams received a memo from commissioner Roger Goodell on Oct. 2.
It states: "If a club has at least six players unable to participate as the result of confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu, it can receive roster exemptions for those players and promote players from its own practice squad to replace them. A club can receive a max of 8 such exemptions. They must be medically confirmed cases of swine flu. This procedure does not apply to any other type of flu or illness. There is a deadline for promoting practice squad players pursuant to these procedures at four hours prior to kickoff."
Wimbley missed last Sunday's game in Pittsburgh and Rogers was sick during the game. The team tried to keep Wimbley isolated from the team and he was driven to the road game while the team took a bus. Wimbley, though, never got well enough to play and was sent home. Rogers was driven back to Ohio in a separate vehicle.
The Browns are ranked at or near the bottom in virtually every team statistic, and the flu bug hit in the same week they lost their leading tackler, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, to a season-ending shoulder injury.
Return specialist Joshua Cribbs is one of several Browns appreciative of Mangini's proactive approach to the virus.
"A lot of us players have small kids at home," Cribbs said. "I have a 4-month-old and coach has kids. So he's just protecting our families; we don't want to bring these diseases home. Coach is a family man and thinks of family first."