IRVING, Tex. -- The Cleveland Browns are braced to lose prized rookie tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. for at least six weeks because of what is believed to be a broken bone in his right leg, an NFL source said early this morning.
Winslow was hurt in the pileup as the Browns recovered an onside kick in the final seconds of their 19-12 loss Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys. He was taken off the field on a cart after the game, and Coach Butch Davis declined to comment on the extent of the injury during his postgame news conference.
But the Browns believed that Winslow, the sixth overall choice in this year's draft out of the University of Miami, broke his fibula, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team was awaiting the results of further tests today. If that indeed is the injury, the Browns could be without Winslow for most or even all of the 15 remaining games this season.
He had only one catch Sunday as Cleveland's offense sputtered. He had five receptions in the Browns' first two games and was to be a focal point of the offense as the season progressed. Cleveland already is without injured tight end Steve Heiden and could re-sign Chad Mustard, a tight end who was released before the season.
The Browns also could be without defensive end Courtney Brown, the top overall selection in the 2000 draft, for much or all of the season because of a foot injury suffered Sunday and were without defensive tackle Gerard Warren, the third overall pick in the 2001 draft, after he aggravated a strained pectoral muscle against the Cowboys.
Browns Had Chances
If the Browns' season unravels and that costs Davis his job, he undoubtedly will look back on this game in Texas Stadium as a major could-have-been. The injuries weren't the Browns' only lament Sunday. They had a chance -- a bunch of chances, in fact -- to really get something started, to beat a second straight 2003 playoff team to open the season and make their offseason of organizational upheaval a fading memory. But they didn't get it done, and now they are just another 1-1 team with an uncertain future.
"Those guys tried to give the game back to us," said Dave Campo, the Browns' defensive coordinator who was coaching for the first time against the team that fired him after the 2002 season and hired Bill Parcells as its head coach.
Cowboys quarterback Vinny Testaverde threw interceptions on three straight second-half Dallas possessions. The Browns took over at the Cowboys' 22-yard line on the first, trailing only 17-9 late in the third quarter. They moved to the Dallas 5, but quarterback Jeff Garcia threw incomplete into the end zone on third-and-four and Cleveland had to settle for kicker Phil Dawson's fourth field goal.
After Testaverde's next two interceptions, Garcia gave the ball back to the Cowboys with interceptions of his own. This wasn't what the Browns had in mind when they dumped former top overall draft choice Tim Couch as their starter by signing Garcia in March to a four-year, $25-million contract after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. Garcia had a 0.0 passer rating Sunday, completing eight of 27 passes for 71 yards and throwing three interceptions.
"All I can say is that it was a tough day and, unfortunately, we missed a lot of opportunities for getting the ball in the end zone," Garcia said. "We had three turnovers, and that is just not going to get us a win. They came out and got after us and got us into difficult situations. They did a great job defensively and we just didn't execute well."
The tone was set early, when Garcia overthrew uncovered wide receiver Quincy Morgan with a deep pass on Cleveland's second possession.
"That's just one of those plays you have to make," Morgan said. "I won't elaborate too much, but you have to make those plays. If so, it is a different ballgame."
The Browns had a first down at the Dallas 9 in the second quarter but got only a field goal. Garcia threw his first interception of the day on a third-down play from the Dallas 26 in the third quarter.
"I know as a team we are better than that," Garcia said. "I have to give credit where it is due: Dallas played good defense . . . [But] we are not going to be given many more opportunities to win on the road like we were [Sunday]."
Morgan said there is an adjustment period to playing with a new quarterback. But that, he added, doesn't explain the poor offensive performance.
"Is there a learning curve? Yeah," the wide receiver said. "Yeah, there definitely is. But I don't know why we played that bad."
The Browns were coming off a draining home win over their rival Baltimore Ravens and played a second consecutive game without tailback Lee Suggs, sidelined by a pinched nerve in his neck. They were running low on defensive linemen by day's end, with the injuries to Brown and Warren, and the optimists in their locker room talked about how tough they'd made the day for the Cowboys.
"With all the mistakes and all we did wrong, to still be in the game shows the effort and competitiveness of this team," center Jeff Faine said.
Down the hall, Parcells said at his postgame news conference: "Cleveland's got a pretty good team. They are pretty solid. They have a good scheme and are well-coached."
But the NFL is all about teams that find ways to win and teams that find ways to lose, and the Browns usually have been a team that finds ways to lose during Davis's tenure. They were 5-11 last season and are 22-28 during his stay in Cleveland. Davis spent the offseason consolidating his power within the organization, and owner Randy Lerner will have no one else to blame if the Browns fail again.
"It was close," Morgan said Sunday evening. "But close doesn't get it.'' . . .
Parcells clearly could be seen yelling "shut up" as part of his sideline bellowing at Keyshawn Johnson after the wide receiver cost the Cowboys a possible touchdown with a second-quarter penalty. But Parcells wasn't piling on after the game.
"Don't make that the play of the game," he told reporters as he closed his postgame news conference, "because it wasn't."
Then what was the play of the game? "The last one," Parcells said.
Johnson, playing deep safety on defense, batted away the desperation heave of Cleveland rookie quarterback Luke McCown to end the game. McCown was inserted into the game for the Hail Mary attempt after the Browns recovered the onside kick on which Winslow was hurt.
Earlier, Johnson was called for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for kicking Browns safety Earl Little in a pileup at the Cleveland 12-yard line. Little was called for a personal foul for jumping late on Cowboys receiver Terry Glenn after an 18-yard reception on third and 20. Little's penalty would have given the Cowboys a first down, but Johnson's retaliation made the penalties offset and Dallas had to settle for a field goal. When Johnson was grousing about the call as he returned to the sideline, Parcells unleashed on him. But the Cowboys were in a forgiving mood after the game.
"You don't like to see that with a veteran like Keyshawn," owner Jerry Jones said in the locker room. "But he's so competitive, so into the game. He was helping a teammate. That's no excuse, but you could see what his intent was."
New Orleans tailback Deuce McAllister is scheduled to undergo an MRI today on the ankle injury he suffered early in Sunday's win over the 49ers. It was feared that McAllister suffered a high ankle sprain that could sideline him about six weeks . . . .
Miami might have lost defensive tackle Larry Chester for much or all of the season because of a knee injury suffered in Sunday night's loss at Cincinnati . . . .
The elbow injury suffered Sunday by Pittsburgh quarterback Tommy Maddox leaves rookie Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers' starter this week and perhaps for the rest of the season. Maddox is scheduled to undergo an MRI today on what Coach Bill Cowher said appears to be a strained or torn muscle . . . .
The New York Jets get a bye this week. They're fortunate after suffering two significant injuries Sunday -- a broken bone in the right hand of five-time Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae and a sprained knee ligament for linebacker Sam Cowart. The club likely will know more today about the recovery period they will require . . . .
The Chicago Bears will have to decide whether to use Bobby Gray or Todd Johnson to replace safety Mike Brown, who tore his Achilles tendon late in Sunday's upset of Green Bay and will miss the rest of the season. Gray had his first career interception on the play after Brown was hurt and probably will start at strong safety while Mike Green moves from strong safety to Brown's free safety spot . . . .
Veteran Doug Flutie or rookie Philip Rivers could be San Diego's starting quarterback this week after Drew Brees suffered a concussion during Sunday's loss to the Jets. Brees lobbied Coach Marty Schottenheimer to stay in the game but Schottenheimer went to Flutie . . . .
Denver's offensive linemen regularly have been accused over the years of using illegal blocking tactics, and those accusations may surface again. Jacksonville defensive end Paul Spicer broke his leg on a running play on which he was blocked low by Broncos left tackle Matt Lepsis and high by fullback Reuben Droughns.
"There have been a lot of stories written about their offensive line over the years," Jaguars Coach Jack Del Rio said in his postgame news conference after the team's 7-6 victory. "And you look at the kinds of injuries that happen when they play, you wonder. But I can't comment until I see the game film myself." . . .
The Cowboys will have to rely on veteran tailback Eddie George even more heavily because rookie Julius Jones broke his shoulder blade Sunday and will be sidelined for two months, Parcells said during his news conference today . . .
Indianapolis tailback Edgerrin James could miss Sunday's game against Green Bay because of a strained hamstring. He would be replaced in the Colts' lineup by Dominic Rhodes.
Williams Is Real Deal
Detroit rookie wideout Roy Williams -- the player the Browns passed up to draft Winslow -- is quickly proving to be a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He filled that role in the Lions' triumph over Houston on Sunday, with Charles Rogers sidelined by a broken collarbone, and had a pair of touchdown catches as part of his four-reception, 78-yard day. The second touchdown came on an impressive, stretching grab along the sideline in which he dragged his back foot expertly to keep it in bounds.
Both of Williams's touchdown receptions came against Texans veteran cornerback Aaron Glenn, who played at Texas A&M against Williams's older brother Lloyd Hill, a former wide receiver at Texas Tech. Williams told reporters he will give the ball from his first touchdown to his brother and the ball from his second touchdown to his mother.
Hill played on the team at Permian High School in Odessa, Tex., that was featured in the book "Friday Night Lights," which has been made into a movie. Williams, also a Permian alum, has a small part in the movie, playing an assistant coach at rival Midland Lee High.
Odds and ends
Onterrio Smith is penciled in to be Minnesota's featured runner for tonight's game at Philadelphia, backed up by rookie Mewelde Moore The Vikings are fortunate that Smith is able to continue playing before the NFL rules on his pending appeal of his four-game suspension for reportedly violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Starting tailback Michael Bennett is sidelined by a knee injury but should return by the time Smith's appeal is decided, and Moe Williams joins Bennett on the shelf tonight because of a sprained ankle . . .
Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher forced the fumble by Packers tailback Ahman Green that Brown scooped up and returned 95 yards for a touchdown in the key play for Chicago on Sunday. Urlacher, who blocked Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre on the play, didn't force a fumble, recover a fumble or have an interception all last season . . . The fumble was Green's second in two games this season. He had seemed to cure his fumbling problem after fumbling seven times and losing five of them in the first half of last season . . . Seattle has matched its road victory total from last season, with two . . .
The 0-2 Kansas City Chiefs have lost consecutive regular-season games for the first time since October 2002. Their 13-game home regular-season winning streak was ended Sunday by a Carolina team that was missing its top wide receiver, Steve Smith, and its featured runner, tailback Stephen Davis. Some around the league are convinced, however, that the Panthers' offense is more dangerous, at least in the short term, with the explosive DeShaun Foster playing in place of the workhorse Davis. Foster had a 71-yard run Sunday as part of a 32-carry, 174-yard rushing performance. The Panthers had 183 rushing yards against the virtually defenseless Chiefs -- 141 of them in the second half -- after being limited to 38 rushing yards in their opening loss to the Packers. Now Foster will have to prove he can continue to shoulder the load for more than one game . . .
Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden announced today that veteran Brad Johnson will remain the Buccaneers' starting quarterback for Sunday night's game at Oakland. Gruden yanked Johnson in favor of second-year pro Chris Simms early in Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Seahawks.
"Brad Johnson is the starting quarterback,'' Gruden said. "He'll start in Oakland and we consider him an excellent football player and starting quarterback. We made a change [Sunday] to try to give our team a spark, a different perspective. We thought we needed that. Brad will be the quarterback in Oakland and we expect for him to play well. We have to help him -- everybody. Not just the coaches, not just the linemen, wide receivers, tight ends and backs. We all have to pick up our play now and we'll let Brad Johnson find a way to help us win."
Gruden is 0-2 for the first time and his offense has produced three field goals in 25 possessions.
"It is a very difficult position to play, the quarterback position,'' Gruden said after what he called a sleepless night. "It is very hard to coach that position as well. Brad Johnson is a heck of a football player and a team man. He has been victimized by a lot of circumstances. The lineup has been a revolving door. It has been difficult on him. His style, the way in which he plays -- he is a very system-oriented quarterback, a very disciplined football player. With all of the changes, I think it has inhibited him to some degree. Hopefully, some of the experience some of these new players have gotten the last couple of games will help them in improving their game as well. Brad will be the quarterback."