BEREA – Quentin Groves’ season is over.
The outside linebacker was placed on injured reserve Monday and will have surgery on his left ankle in the next couple of weeks. He originally suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 2, returned to the lineup a couple of times but kept aggravating the injury.
“Quentin’s a valuable part of our team and a valuable part of the leadership on our team,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “Obviously, we’re disappointed, but it’s the best thing right now to get that fixed and corrected. We’ll have to have other guys step up, whether it’s on special teams or whether it’s on defense.”
Groves was the fourth man in the four-man rotation at outside linebacker and a special teams captain after signing a two-year, $2.28 million deal as a free agent in the offseason. But he couldn’t stay healthy to make the on-field impact he had hoped. He missed three games after the initial injury, then was in and out of the lineup over the next four weeks.
He played Nov. 3 against Baltimore and sacked Joe Flacco, but left for good in the third quarter when he aggravated the injury. He finished the year with five tackles and two sacks and a forced fumble on special teams.
“It’s huge because he’s the energy guy,” inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “He’s a guy that brings energy in practice, throughout the week, he knows the system and he’s productive when he’s in the ballgame. You can't replace a guy like that.”
Eric Martin and Paul Hazel are candidates to get more repetitions.
“Unfortunately, it’s something that happened, but it’s always next man up,” said Martin, who has no tackles in limited defensive snaps but a fumble recovery on special teams. “If I’ve got to be the next man, then I am. So I’ve just got to approach it just like how I’ve been all season, just doing my job, wait for opportunities. When they open up, you’ve got to be there to take them.
“I feel very ready. It’s the reason why I’m playing this game -- to be ready for stuff like that. All it takes is a person to just come in and just step up.”
Groves was signed in part because he knew coordinator Ray Horton’s defense from their time together in Arizona. Groves helped teach it to his new teammates and was voted special teams captain.
“That’s one less communicator, one less veteran guy on the defense and also special teams,” Jackson said. “He’s huge on special teams and he was that leader.”
Rookie linebacker Brandon Magee (5-foot-11, 225 pounds) was promoted from the practice squad to fill the roster spot. He appeared in the first six games, recording three special teams tackles.
Jackson has a deep respect for U.S. troops and took a few minutes to remember them on Veterans Day. His appreciation was strengthened on a USO tour to Afghanistan in March.
“If you personally experience it, it’s something special,” he said. “My hat goes off to all the uniformed troops we have in this country. It was truly an honor to go over there and spend some time with them. It changes your perspective on the way you look at the world.”
Jackson was struck by the daily lives of the soldiers.
“Just how young the troops were, the personal experiences, the way they spoke about the dangers we think would be unspeakable to wake up to,” he said. “They talk about it freely as if it’s a normal day. The kids that are telling you these stories are 18 years old, 21 years old. The first thing you think about is, ‘Would I trust myself at 21 years old with such a big responsibility?’”
Quarterback Jason Campbell is feeling better after sustaining bruised ribs against the Ravens. He took it easy in a pair of practices last week but looked good throwing Monday.
“He’s good to go. He’s full speed in practice,” Chudzinski said.
** Reserve tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) was the lone player on the roster who didn’t practice. He rode the stationary bike.
** Receiver/returner Travis Benjamin will have surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament this week, Chudzinski said. He was lost for the season Oct. 27 against the Chiefs.
The Browns (4-5) play Cincinnati (6-4) on Sunday with a chance to gain ground in the AFC North. The last time the Browns traveled down I-71 with as much at stake was in Week 16 of 2007. The Browns were 9-5 and a win would’ve earned them a trip to the playoffs.
The Bengals prevailed 19-14. The Browns won the finale vs. San Francisco but lost the tiebreaker for a wild-card spot.
“It was a game that we needed to win and were not able to win,” Chudzinski said. “Certainly that was a disappointment for us and for me, and one of those games that you’ll always remember.”
Chudzinski was offensive coordinator at the time and was criticized for having Derek Anderson throw 48 times despite windy conditions. Anderson threw four interceptions.
“I think every experience is a learning experience,” Chudzinski said. “That particular day we did what we felt like, and what I felt like, we needed to do to win in that case. Sometimes they work, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Chudzinski said the entire team returned on time from the bye and there were no arrests.
That’s not a given when the players have four days off in a row, but Jackson wasn’t worried, even after Groves was arrested in the offseason for solicitation and receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon have had multiple traffic violations.
“We’ve had too many guys, too many examples of what not to do, too many scares around the locker room to know you better take care of your business,” Jackson said. “Guys did. Everyone showed up on time.”