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Browns' McCoy out with concussion, Watson on IR

By Tom Withers
AP Sports Writer / December 16, 2011
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BEREA, Ohio—Colt McCoy is expected to recover from his concussion and play for the Browns again this season. Benjamin Watson isn't as fortunate.

Watson was placed on injured reserve Friday, ending the tight end's season after he sustained his third concussion since July in last week's loss at Pittsburgh. Watson was injured when he banged his head on the ground following a tackle in the first half, couldn't get his balance and had to be helped to the sideline.

Watson who was Cleveland's leading receiver last season and had 37 catches for 410 yards and two touchdowns this year, visited a specialist on head injuries earlier this week.

Browns tight end Evan Moore was disappointed Watson's season ended prematurely, but understood the choice.

"That's a big loss," Moore said. "All of us are really close with Ben. He's doing well. I don't know the ins and outs of how the decision was made, but I know when it comes to the head, it's not something you mess around with. So I think he not only has to think about himself but his family. And Ben's a smart guy, so I'm sure he wanted to go with the right decision."

Shurmur said Watson, a father of three who will turn 31 on Sunday, has not discussed with him the possibility of retiring.

Watson was not available for interviews as players packed following practice for their flight to Arizona. A team spokesman said per league policy, "players are not available until cleared from a medical standpoint."

McCoy, who was flattened last week on an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, has not yet been cleared to play by Cleveland's medical staff, which came under heavy criticism for its handling of the QB's head injury.

McCoy is still experiencing headaches and was sent home Friday for the fourth time this week to rest. He was seen driving away from the team's facility in his pickup truck and will not accompany the team to Arizona.

Shurmur said there has been no discussion about placing McCoy on IR.

"He's still having some symptoms and that's why we sent him home," Shurmur said.

With McCoy sidelined, backup Seneca Wallace will make his first start this season against the Cardinals. Wallace went 1-3 in four starts last season, and Shurmur expects the nine-year veteran who will be making his 19th start in the NFL to play well.

"I'm anticipating that Seneca's going to go out and execute efficiently and I think we saw Colt do that at times this year," he said. "As a quarterback, you're trying to go out and do everything right all the time. Every once in a while you'll make a bad throw or a poor decision and then you get right back on the horse and try to correct it.

"I would anticipate, based on what I saw in practice, Seneca will do a good job."

Shurmur added that rookie fullback Owen Marecic is also out this week. Like McCoy and Watson, Marecic sustained a concussion against the Steelers, his second concussion in a month.

To replace Marecic, the Browns activated fullback Eddie Williams.

The Browns' handling of McCoy's injury -- he was not given the standard sideline concussion test until the next day -- prompted the league to send medical personnel to Cleveland to meet with the Browns. Representatives of the Players Association also attended the meeting to discuss the team's treatment of McCoy and possible changes to the league's policies on head injuries.

Team president Mike Holmgren said the team did not check McCoy for a concussion on the sideline because he was not displaying symptoms and because the medical staff did not see Harrison's vicious hit while attending to other injured players on the sideline.

Shurmur said the team is not planning any major changes to their procedures on concussions this week, but that McCoy's injury "made an impression on us."

On Friday, the league denied Harrison's appeal of his suspension, which the league handed down for his fifth illegal hit on a quarterback in three years. Harrison is the first player suspended under stricter guidelines for player safety.

Moore, who sustained a concussion earlier this year, is pleased there is increased awareness on concussions and more emphasis on player safety. He's also in favor of the league using independent neurologists at games to help assess head injuries.

"That's something that we could've addressed in the CBA before we finished things up," Moore said. "I think we as players tried to push for health issues but I think we sacrificed a couple things in the interest of getting the business side of it done.

"I thought we could have done a better job as a union -- that's how I personally feel -- of making sure we look after players first. It's something we could have done better and the unfortunate thing is we have a 10-year CBA with no opt out, so we've gotta try to find a way to get it done before then."

Notes: K Phil Dawson was pleased to learn general manager Tom Heckert wants him back next season. "It's nice to hear that. It beats the alternative," Dawson said with a smile. "It's good to know they're not looking for a young guy in the draft." The Browns placed their franchise tag on Dawson this season and could do so again. The 36-year-old is having another solid season, his 14th with the franchise. ... Williams, who wears No. 44, has been popping pads at practice for weeks. "He can drop his weight and block a guy so he'll get a chance to do it live on Sunday," Shurmur said.

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