BEREA — Kevin Shaffer doesn’t look happy.
After moving from left tackle to right tackle to make room for rookie Joe Thomas, Shaffer is in jeopardy of losing the right tackle job to Ryan Tucker, who returned Sunday following a four-game steroids suspension. Shaffer started vs. the Patriots and played the entire second half, but Tucker played in the second quarter.
“It’s one of those things where I’m not sure what’s going on, not sure what’s going to happen,” Shaffer said Monday. “You really just need to talk to (GM) Phil (Savage) or (coach Romeo Crennel) about that.”
Savage didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment.
Shaffer was signed to a seven-year, $36 million contract, including $12 million guaranteed, in 2006 and started 16 games at left tackle. The Browns weren’t pleased with his play and drafted Thomas.
Tucker’s been a solid starter on the right side in his five-plus years with the Browns but missed seven games at the end of last year with a mental disorder and sat out the first month with the suspension. Crennel said he was OK in the running game Sunday but struggled in pass protection, including allowing linebacker Mike Vrabel to hit quarterback Derek Anderson’s arm and force an interception.
The line had allowed just one sack in three games before giving up three to a good New England defense.
“I feel like I’ve been doing pretty well, but Tuck’s a great player, too, a great guy,” Shaffer said. “We have a surplus right now, so I don’t know.”
Crennel said he didn’t regret rotating in Tucker, and won’t try him at right guard “at the moment.”
“He has to work his way back,” Crennel said. “We’ll mix him in from time to time to see how he comes along and make decisions as he goes.
“Shaffer is the starter. I told him that this morning. He just has to keep his job.”
Shaffer is making only $585,000 this year and $815,000 in 2008 before the contract jumps to $2.9 million. He didn’t take much comfort in Crennel’s vote of confidence.
“I did have a conversation with him and, um, you’re just going to have to talk to him about that,” Shaffer said. “I’m not sure how we’re going to proceed from here.”
The Browns discussed trading Shaffer after drafting Thomas but decided to keep him for depth. The trade deadline is Oct. 16 and Shaffer is aware that Tampa Bay and Atlanta, where he played for four years, recently lost left tackles to injuries.
“I just want to play,” he said.
Punter Scott Player was waived Monday, signaling the return of Dave Zastudil from a side injury. Player did a great job filling in, averaging 45.6 yards on 13 kicks with a 40.3 net. Zastudil missed the opener, aggravated the injury in Week 2 and was inactive the next three weeks.
The Browns claimed defensive lineman Louis Leonard (6-foot-4, 330 pounds) off waivers to fill the open roster spot. He’s an undrafted rookie who spent the last three weeks inactive for the Rams. He attended Fresno State.
X-rays were negative on running back Jamal Lewis’ foot, and Crennel characterized it as a strain as the team awaited an MRI. Lewis injured the foot on the first play Sunday and didn’t return.
• Receiver Joe Jurevicius experienced swelling in his knee, but the X-rays were negative. Crennel said there’s some “wear and tear” in the knee and his availability would be determined later in the week.
• Third tight end Darnell Dinkins was scheduled to see a hand specialist.
• Safety Brodney Pool should be OK after suffering a thigh bruise.
Ted’s not dead
Crennel said 39-year-old Ted Washington was inactive Sunday because of the game plan.
“There were a lot of multiple wide receivers, shotgun formations, so we thought it was going to be more of a nickel game — which it was — so I made him inactive,” he said.
The Browns spent much of the game in packages with just one or two linemen and extra defensive backs. Washington was originally taken out of the starting lineup three games ago and replaced by Ethan Kelley.
Crennel said Anderson deserved the blame for only one of his three first-half interceptions. The first one was the most costly and got the blame, as Anderson rolled right and threw into the end zone.
“Two of the balls were tipped and I thought that there was only one play that he made a bad choice,” Crennel said. “On the first one he tried to throw the ball across his body after he got flushed out of the pocket. That probably wasn’t the choice that he would make again.”
Cornerback Leigh Bodden was upset with himself for missing a pair of tackles that proved costly.
Donte Stallworth stiff-armed Bodden and ran down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown in the first quarter. In the fourth quarter, Bodden missed Wes Welker, who was able to pick up a couple of more yards and get close enough to a first down for the Patriots to go for it on fourth down. They scored a touchdown later on that drive.
“I look at those two plays and think that was really a key for the game,” Bodden said.
He was hoping to be assigned to cover Randy Moss all game, but the cornerbacks stayed on their sides, regardless of where Moss lined up.
“That was the decision of the coaches,” Bodden said. “They just wanted to play regular, let everybody be in their spots and play fast.”