Winless Browns have been as much triage unit as football team

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns will have a new offensive line combination for the fourth game in a row when they play in Tennessee on Sunday.

As of Sunday, the Browns will have started five different combinations on the line.

It's been that kind of season for the Browns, who have incurred what seems like an endless and insurmountable streak of injuries.

"We have had a lot," coach Hue Jackson said. "I think we all know that. That is well documented, but that is part of this deal."

The phrase "next man up" has been used more often in Cleveland the last two months than the word "polls."

In one week the team lost first-round pick Corey Coleman, cornerback Joe Haden and placekicker Patrick Murray — in practice.

Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown were hurt in the first and second games of the season.

In the fifth game, two quarterbacks were injured. And in two separate games, quarterbacks returned from injury merely to finish out the final seconds.

ESPN Stats & Information reports that the Browns are tied with the Indianapolis Colts for second with the number of players ruled out of a game this season -- with 17. Pittsburgh leads the league with 25.

Of course the Steelers remain one of the best teams because they have one of the best quarterback-receiver-running back trios in the league.

The Browns aren't there yet.

Their roster was loaded with players with two years or less experience and uncertainty at quarterback. Few predicted much. The injuries have simply made it that much tougher for a winless team, even for a team that has hired weight lifting coaches by position group and has a detailed sports science department.

"It is really amazing because when you look at the things that have happened, it is not like there are torn ACLs or any of that stuff or a play happened where somebody just got crushed," Jackson said. "What is a coracoid bone, you know? What is that? I’m serious."

Google "what is a coracoid bone" and this answer shows first:

"A coracoid is a paired bone which is part of the shoulder assembly in all vertebrates except therian mammals (therians = marsupials and placentals). In therian mammals (including humans), a coracoid process is present as part of the scapula, but this is not homologous with the coracoid bone of most other animals."

Which certainly clears that up.

A coracoid bone is what Griffin broke to sideline him after one game. Jackson is right about one thing: Not many knew about the bone until Griffin broke it trying to run out of bounds.

There has been on ACL injury, though. The Browns signed center Austin Reiter from the Redskins practice squad when Cam Erving was sent to the hospital after the Ravens loss with a bruised lung.

Reiter started at center against Washington, played well but tore his ACL late in the loss when his knee was hit from behind.

The freak occurrences have mounted. McCown finished a game with a fractured left collarbone. Haden has had two different groin injuries -- the most recent came on Thursday in practice. Coleman broke his hand in a normal tangle after a catch in practice.

And when Cody Kessler bruised his ribs against New England, Charlie Whitehurst and Terrelle Pryor both took snaps at quarterback. Which means in five games the Browns have started three quarterbacks and used five.

"Our sports medicine staff is just as surprised as we are -- understand it, but surprised," Jackson said. "We have to do everything we can to get these guys back. Our practice fields are good, our process is good, how we work and the strength and conditioning staff is great. We have just had some unfortunate luck. It is part of it. We are going to deal with it."

Joel Bitonio's injured foot means the offensive line will be jumbled again, with Alvin Bailey moving from right to left guard, John Greco moving from center to right guard and Cam Erving returning to start at center.

After the opening snap Sunday, the Browns will have started two left guards, three centers and two right guards in four games.

"You guys want me to say I give, I quit, or what?" Jackson said.

At various points of the season, Jackson has used the phrase "here we go" or "we'll see" or "we'll put 11 guys out there" while discussing injuries. He acknowledges them more than many coaches, but like most is not eager to talk about them.

"It is not easy." he said. "I’ll be the first to tell you that. I’m not going to sit up here and tell you, ‘Oh my gosh, this is great!’ No, it is not.

"But at the same time, what do you guys want me to do? We are going to keep working. We are going to keep coaching and keep getting these guys better. We are not going to make excuses."