Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Shurmur defends call to punt

BEREA, Ohio — Browns rookie linebacker Craig Robertson walked into the locker room Monday wearing a black T-shirt with "Fourth & Inches" written across the front.

Apparently someone forgot to tell him "4th-and-1" was in fashion.

Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur defended his decision to punt on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 17-13 loss to Indianapolis, a choice that didn't sit well with new owner Jimmy Haslam, who folded his legs in his suite and frowned as the Browns lined up to kick the ball back to the Colts with 6:38 left.

Shurmur, who fell to 5-18 in his second season, reasoned there was still enough time left for the Browns (1-6) to give the ball back to quarterback Andrew Luck. With two timeouts, Shurmur hoped to pin the Colts deep in their own end of the field, force them to punt, and get the ball back with a chance to win.

That's what happened, except for the win part, as the Browns failed to convert on a 4th-and-6 with less than two minutes left and dropped their 11th straight road game.

Still, Shurmur felt he handled the situation properly. Given another chance, he wouldn't change a thing.

"I would do that again," he said.

Haslam's dissatisfied reaction to the punt came moments after the truck-stop magnate, whose $1 billion purchase of the Browns was approved last week, had angrily swiped his hand at the air when rookie Josh Gordon dropped a certain touchdown pass at the goal line. Gordon failed to handle rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden's perfect throw under pressure, a miscue that cost the Browns a possible win.

The error was emblematic of Cleveland's so-far lost season — a string of near misses.

"When you're fighting for inches, fighting for victories, it's important you make every play," Shurmur said. "There was a lot that went on in the game and, of course, we're all focusing on really a handful of things. And if one or two of those handful of things go the way that we all would like them to, then the outcomes are different.

"But that's the same in every game. Every game you watch played yesterday involved a handful of things that could've determined the outcome for either team. That's real."

And for Shurmur, the new reality is that Haslam is watching his every move, analyzing his every decision. Shurmur said he was unaware of Haslam's emotional response, which was caught by television cameras. The two men have exchanged text messages, but Shurmur said they had not discussed his conclusion to punt.

"No, I haven't talked to him about that, and I haven't watched the TV copy, so at this point it wouldn't be right for me to comment on it," Shurmur said. "Games are emotional, and we all have attachment to a team and a game. I try to keep my emotions in check."

Another issue hanging over from Sunday was the condition of Browns running back Trent Richardson, who played with a rib injury and was benched after gaining just eight yards on eight carries. Richardson wore a flak jacket to protect the rib cartilage injury, but it was obvious that he wasn't himself, and Shurmur decided to sit him.

Shurmur indicated there was a chance Richardson could miss some time. The Browns will host San Diego this week and Baltimore on Nov. 4 before their bye. Shurmur said Richardson will be evaluated on a weekly basis.

"If he's ready to play, he'll play," he said. "If we see this is bothering him to the point where he can't perform, then we'll make those decisions as we go."

Following the game, Richardson acknowledged he wasn't running as hard as usual. He said Shurmur made a "smart" decision in resting him, but the first-round pick also indicated his injury is perhaps more severe than he or the Browns are letting on.

The Browns only gained 55 rushing yards against a Colts defense that allowed 252 on the ground the previous week against the New York Jets. Without Richardson at 100 percent, Cleveland's offense was missing a vital component, but Shurmur wouldn't use that as an excuse.

"We need to be better," he said. "Rushing yards as a team is a team thing, just like stopping the run is a team thing, just like stopping sacks is a team thing, just like getting a bunch of completions is a team thing. A combination of things has to get better there."

Pinkston out for season

Still hospitalized with blood clots in his lungs, Jason Pinkston was placed on injured reserve Monday, ending his second year in the NFL after six games.

The 25-year-old was rushed to the Cleveland Clinic on Thursday with the life-threatening condition. Pinkston was expecting to be released on Monday, but he's still receiving treatment.

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