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Browns guard Joel Bitonio frustrated by foot injury, vows to come back strong next year

BEREA — Joel Bitonio summed up his mood, the team’s injury situation and the Browns’ first six weeks when asked Friday how he was doing.
“Pretty crappy,” the left guard said.
Bitonio was placed on injured reserve with a right midfoot injury. He was in a walking boot and will likely miss the rest of the season.
“It was crappy news, but it’s part of the game,” he said. “You get banged up out there. Hopefully it’s things you can play through most of the time, but this one, a little more serious than that.”
Bitonio, a second-round pick in 2014, is one of Cleveland’s best players and teams with left tackle Joe Thomas for one of the league’s top tandems.
“I felt really good about how I was playing ball and then to go down, it’s really unfortunate,” he said. “But I’m going to use it as motivation and I’m going to do everything in my power to just be the best Joel I can be for this team.”
The loss of an important piece is nothing new for coach Hue Jackson in his first season. If cornerback Joe Haden (questionable with a groin injury) doesn’t play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, 15 key contributors will have missed at least two games — and this is only Week 6.
“We are going through it,” said Jackson, whose team is 0-5. “Hopefully, we will get through all of these issues and our future will be bright because maybe the injury god will look down on us as we move forward and say, ‘OK, you guys have had your fair share for years to come.’”
Jackson has said repeatedly he won’t blink no matter what misfortune hits his team. His players have followed his lead.
“You can’t make any excuse,” safety Jordan Poyer said. “Doesn’t matter who goes down, next guy’s got to be ready to play.”
“It is just normal in the NFL,” said cornerback Tramon Williams, who’s missed the last two games with a shoulder injury and is listed as questionable this week. “Guys go down, other guys step in and that is the way guys are born.”
The loss of Bitonio puts another ball into the air as the Browns continue to juggle the line. Center Cameron Erving is back after missing three games with a bruised lung, so John Greco will shift back to right guard. Alvin Bailey, who has made two starts at right guard, will take Bitonio’s spot on the left side against a stout Titans defensive front led by tackle Jurrell Casey, a Pro Bowler last season.
“Joel is one of our best players up there,” Jackson said. “It makes it a little tough, but again, we will find a way.”
Bitonio said he was hurt Sunday in the loss to the Patriots on the final play of the first half – an unsuccessful Hail Mary.
“It was freak,” he said. “Foot got tangled up a little bit and didn’t even go to the ground. Just felt like, ‘Oh, that hurt a little bit.’
“After the game I went in and they checked it out and did some more tests and stuff and we realized it was a little worse the next couple of days than we thought it was.”
Bitonio said he’ll visit a specialist next week in Charlotte, N.C., to determine if it’s a Lisfranc injury – a serious midfoot injury – and if surgery is necessary. He said the foot hurts on top and on the bottom.
He played the whole second half in pain.
“You’re always a little bit beat up out there and you don’t ever want to let your teammates down,” Bitonio said. “I was just like give it everything I have right now and we’ll see what happens after the game. It sucked but it was something that I thought I could play through and so I just went out there and kept playing.”
He has started all 31 games he’s played, but finished last year on IR with an ankle injury. It’s not a certainty he’ll miss the final 11 games this season, but he wouldn’t be eligible to play again until the 14th game and only one player is allowed to return from IR.
“You never want to end the season hurt and that’s two years in a row for me now,” he said. “It’s just not something that I’m used to. I’ve never been hurt in my life till the last two years. A couple freak accidents, but I’m going to come back and I’m going to work my tail my off and do everything in my power to come back better next season.”
Bitonio said he’ll attack the rehabilitation like a game.
“I’ve had some obstacles in my life before, and I know when you go down there’s only one way back, you’ve got to get up from it,” he said. “And I’m confident.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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