BEREA — Baker Mayfield was letting it rip Friday, throwing with zip during the 25 minutes of practice open to reporters.
Coach Kevin Stefanski said Mayfield’s improving every day, but the Browns listed him as questionable on the official injury report as he continues to deal with sore ribs. The Browns (4-1) play the Steelers (4-0) on Sunday at Heinz Field.
“He is trending in the right direction, but we have to make sure that we are safe with this as this goes and use all these hours for treatment and see how he responds,” Stefanski said.
Mayfield’s right side was hurt on a big hit Sunday in the win over the Colts but said after the game and again Wednesday that he’d be ready to play in Pittsburgh. He was a full participant in practice Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday. Coordinator Alex Van Pelt said Mayfield didn’t throw Wednesday until after practice in front of the athletic training staff.
— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) October 16, 2020
If Mayfield can’t play, veteran Case Keenum would start and get his first playing time with the Browns after signing a three-year, $18 million deal in March.
“Case does a great job as a backup, provides great support in that meeting room and does whatever is asked of him out there on the practice field,” Stefanski said. “He plays a big role every week for us.”
The Browns don’t have a third quarterback on the roster — Kyle Lauletta was signed to the practice squad Friday but won’t be through coronavirus protocols in time to be eligible Sunday. Stefanski wouldn’t reveal his contingency plan if Mayfield and Keenum are unable to play.
“We will deal with that if it comes up, but we are prepared,” he said.
Lauletta (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) was a fourth-round pick of the Giants in 2018 out of the University of Richmond. He spent last season on the Eagles’ practice squad while new Browns general manager Andrew Berry was a member of the personnel department.
The Browns needed a third quarterback after the Cowboys signed Garrett Gilbert off the practice squad Tuesday. Lauletta opened this season on Atlanta’s practice squad but was released in September. He’s played in two games.
MAKE IT WORK
Mayfield had a familiar target back, as receiver Jarvis Landry (hip/ribs) ran routes and caught passes during the early portion of practice. He didn’t practice Wednesday and Thursday, was limited Friday and listed as questionable.
Landry hasn’t missed a game in six-plus years in the NFL, playing 101 straight.
“As you guys know, he is a very, very tough dude,” Stefanski said. “He has spent a lot of time in the training room getting his body right, but he is making a push to Sunday like he always does.”
Landry took a huge shot to his midsection after a catch Sunday in the first quarter but finished the game after missing a few snaps.
— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) October 16, 2020
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (illness) didn’t practice for the second straight day and was listed as questionable. He’s expected to play if a coronavirus test comes back negative Saturday morning.
The uncertainty with three of the offense’s marquee players can’t be an obstacle to winning, Stefanski said.
“The message has been back to the spring you just have to find a way,” he said. “There will be many things thrown at you, as we have all seen this offseason and in the season. There will be many things thrown at you during a game, whether it comes in the first quarter of the fourth quarter, so you just have to find a way.”
Strong safeties Ronnie Harrison (concussion) and Karl Joseph (hamstring) were ruled out for Sunday. Sheldrick Redwine will start at free safety, with Andrew Sendejo sliding from free to strong safety.
“He is doing a good job,” Stefanski said of Redwine, emphasizing the safeties will play both roles. “He understands what we are trying to do, understands his role and has ball skills, like you saw in that last game. Just looking for him to contribute any which way he can.”
Redwine had an interception vs. the Colts.
Harrison rode the stationary bike and watched practice but wasn’t cleared from the concussion protocol.
AND THE REST
Left-footed punter Jamie Gillan showed up on the injury report after injuring his left groin Thursday. He was listed as questionable.
“Just something happened in practice,” Stefanski said. “He is on the treatment list and have to make sure he keeps getting some treatment and see how the next 48 hours go.”
Kicker Cody Parkey would handle punting duties if needed.
** Right guard Wyatt Teller (calf) and rookie linebacker Jacob Phillips (knee) were also ruled out.
** Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (abdomen) and defensive end Olivier Vernon (groin) were listed as questionable but are expected to play.
** Nickelback Kevin Johnson (not injury related) returned after missing Thursday. He’s expected to play.
** The Steelers ruled out right guard David DeCastro (abdominals) and receiver Diontae Johnson (back).
Run game coordinator/running backs coach Stump Mitchell said Nick Chubb is doing well as he rehabs a knee injury suffered Oct. 4 against the Cowboys.
“It was difficult considering that he did not have the ball in his hands and he was on the backside blocking and ended up getting rolled up on. It was a difficult way to see him get injured,” Mitchell said. “He was off to a great start. All that means is that you all have not seen the best of him. His goal still remains the same. He will have to be twice as good when he gets back.”
Mitchell also had high praise for fullback Andy Janovich, whom he believes has the potential to be a Pro Bowler.
“He is definitely where he needs to be. He is on pace to be that guy,” Mitchell said.
Rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills said he doesn’t know much about the rivalry as he’s set to face the Steelers for the first time.
“Not a lot. I just know it’s a rivalry with it being so close, conference game, etc.” he told The Chronicle-Telegram on Thursday. “But I haven’t really heard too much about the actual rivalry.”
He was told it means a lot to the fans.
“I know that part,” he said.
Wills went to the University of Alabama, where Auburn is the hated foe.
“I’m 1-2 against them, so that don’t sit too well with me,” he said. “I went there twice and lost both times by a close score.”