The Browns are down another starting quarterback.
Three weeks into the season, they’re on No. 3.
Josh McCown will miss at least one game with a “deep sprain” in his left shoulder, an injury that will force Cleveland coach Hue Jackson to play rookie Cody Kessler this week at Miami— the team’s 26th starter since 1999.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you’re ready or not,” Jackson said. “In this situation right now, you’ve got to play.”
McCown showed toughness by staying in Sunday’s 25-20 loss to Baltimore despite getting hurt in the first quarter and taking several hard shots.
The 37-year-old was filling in for Robert Griffin III, who broke a bone in his left shoulder in the season opener and will miss at least eight games — and maybe more.
Jackson was evasive about the extent of McCown’s injury. He said the 37-year-old will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. Jackson eluded to McCown having a partially broken bone.
In the meantime, Kessler, a third-round pick from USC, will start against the Dolphins. Jackson said the team will look to add a veteran to its roster, but the job for now belongs to Kessler, who struggled during training camp and the exhibition season.
The Browns would prefer to bring Kessler along more slowly, but that luxury is gone.
“I wouldn’t want it to be this way, but it’s going to be good to get out and see him play,” Jackson said. “At the same time, it’s been two weeks and there’s two different quarterbacks going down.
“Like I said, pretty soon maybe I’ll be playing. But at the same time, you don’t want it to be this way. But that’s the nature of the sport. Sometimes things just don’t go your way.
“So we’ve got to fight like heck to get it back our way. We’re going to get a chance to see Cody play, and we wish it wasn’t like this, but this is how it is.”
The Browns are the first team since the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs to start three QBs in the first three weeks.
Kessler was a surprise pick by the Browns, who also lost starting center Cam Erving (bruised lung) and rookie defensive end Carl Nassib (broken hand) against the Ravens.
Erving was released from the hospital following an overnight stay. Nassib will undergo surgery, but Jackson said it’s possible the former Penn State standout may be able to play in the future with a protective cast.
With Erving out, John Greco will slide over from right guard to center. There’s also a chance the Browns will add a veteran center.
McCown became emotional in his postgame news conference while addressing his reasons for not coming out of the game. McCown’s two sons, who are both playing quarterback in middle school, were in attendance at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The 14-year veteran landed hard several times on his shoulder and he couldn’t lift his left arm as he entered the trainer’s room following his news conference. The pained expression on his face hinted at the severity of his injury.
Kessler is next on the depth chart. He twice warmed up on the sideline Sunday, but McCown stayed on the field, exhibiting toughness that wasn’t lost on his coaches or teammates.
“He has the complete trust and respect of the locker room because of what he does and how he goes about it and he’ll fight to the bitter end,” Jackson said.
“We know that and that’s what this sport is about. You got to be a fighter and you’ve got to be able to get off the ground every now and then and keep playing.”
When the Browns selected Kessler in the draft, Jackson tried to ease any anxiety Cleveland fans had over the pick by saying, “trust me” about taking Kessler.
Jackson laughed when reminded about his comment.
“Well, you’re going to trust me this weekend,” he said. “Here we go, right? So trust me, here we come. We’ll see what that statement was all about.”