The Cleveland Browns lost two big pieces of their defensive puzzles on Thursday, as the team announced that starting linebacker Willie McGinest had surgery for a bulging disk, and fellow linebacker Matt Stewart had his torn labrum surgically repaired. McGinest will miss about six weeks, while the team will be placing Stewart on injured reserve, ending his season before it even gets started.
Browns coach Romeo Crennel said that he is hoping that McGinest will be able to be back on the field after the first month of the season. “He’s going to come back and we’re going to try to get him ready to play the rest of the season,” he said. “Backs are backs and they are fickle sometimes. But after the first six weeks we’ll see how the rehab is going and that will be an indicator as how soon he’ll be back. Willie wants to get back as soon as he can because he wants to play. That’s probably one of the reasons why he decided to go ahead and do the procedure now rather then wait. If something flares up during the season, he’ll miss more time because of it.”
The team has not officially put Stewart on the IR, though that move will likely be happening soon. For now, Anwtan Peek will move up the depth chart in McGinest’s place. The former Texan, signed this past offseason, was supposed to add depth to the position, not necessarily be a starter.
For Stewart, the likely spot will be taken by speedster Chaun Thompson, who started 15 games at outside linebacker for the Browns in 2005. Last season he played more as an inside linebacker. He has been playing on the outside this past week at the teams training camp in Berea since McGinest went down with back pain. Two other linebackers who could see playing time with McGinest and Stewart down are David McMillan and Jason Short.