Mike Pettine said the Browns might start rookie Connor Shaw at quarterback in the season finale Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens because rookie Johnny Manziel has been ruled out with a left hamstring injury and veteran Brian Hoyer is dealing with an injured throwing shoulder.
Shaw would become the Browns’ third starting quarterback this season and the 22nd starting quarterback for Cleveland since 1999 if Hoyer is unavailable. Shaw has spent the season on the practice squad after signing with the Browns as an undrafted free agent in May.
“Connor Shaw will get a good number of reps with the starters,” Pettine said of the practice plan this week. “Connor Shaw is not the biggest, fastest or strongest. His strength is his competitiveness. It wouldn’t surprise me if he played well.”
Shaw, the winningest quarterback in South Carolina history, had his most extensive NFL action during the preseason against the Redskins. He led two fourth-quarter drives, completing 8-of-9 passes for 123 yards and a 45-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass as time expired. Washington won, 24-23.
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The Browns are also “exploring some other options to bring in at quarterback,” Pettine explained. A logical choice would be veteran Rex Grossman, who spent training camp with the Browns and has five seasons of experience in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system.
Manziel, the 22nd pick in this year’s draft, left the Browns’ 17-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter Sunday after suffering the hamstring injury.
“I’ve been told it’s a several-week injury,” Pettine said. “The hamstring was pretty significant.”
Hoyer relived Manziel with 1:49 left in the first half and finished the game. The Browns did not report the injury until Pettine spoke Monday. Hoyer’s right shoulder is “very sore” after being hurt “on one of the long throws where he got hit pretty good and driven to the ground,” Pettine said.
“Brian’s health is also a concern,” Pettine said. “He has a shoulder injury. I will not be ruling him out at this point. We’ll know later in the week regarding his status.”
Hoyer started the first 13 game this season before being demoted Dec. 8 and replaced by Manziel. Hoyer is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 10.