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Where'd All the LBs go?

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Where'd All the LBs go?

Postby slowkidz » Mon Aug 09, 2004 2:10 pm

Losing LBs, quickly Versatile Boyer out six weeks
after breaking bone in foot

JEFF SCHUDEL , Morning Journal Writer 08/07/2004


PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Unless things change quickly,
it looks like linebacker will replace offensive
line as the Browns' Bermuda Triangle this season.


Brant Boyer, more valuable to the team than his
numbers will ever reflect, will be out an
estimated six weeks after breaking his foot
yesterday morning while the Browns practiced
against the Bills.

Boyer is a reserve linebacker capable of playing
all three positions. He is also the captain of
special teams. He broke the fifth metatarsal --
the bone leading to the small toe -- of his right
foot. He and team physician Anthony Miniachi were
flown immediately to Cleveland on team owner
Randy Lerner's private jet. Miniachi was to
surgically insert a screw to fuse the broken bone
together.

''He's a leader,'' coach Butch Davis said, not
wanting to dwell on the injury. ''That certainly
is evident. The first three years he was voted by
his teammates as captain of the special teams
because of his play and work ethic.''

Boyer was one of four linebackers unable to work
against the Bills. Also out for physical reasons
are Chaun Thompson (wrist) and Mason Unck
(hamstring). Andra Davis is absent for personal
reasons.

Four days ago during practice in Berea, Thompson,
a starting outside linebacker, fractured a carpal
bone in his left wrist. He is expected back
before the end of preseason, but he is missing
valuable time because he is a starter in his
second year trying to learn on the fly.

''We're counting on him being full-go in a couple
weeks,'' defensive coordinator Dave Campo said.
''As far as I'm concerned, if he comes back he'll
work his way in and go from there. I'm hoping
he'll be able to do some seven-on-seven without
contact until he's ready to go.''

It was Campo that surprised Thompson in March by
telling the second-year linebacker from little
West Texas A&M that he'd start this season.
Instead of freezing up, Thompson grabbed the
chance and earned the ''iron man award,'' a
trophy given to the player that puts in the most
time and effort under strength coach Buddy
Morris. Thompson added 25 pounds and will play
this season at 250.

''I like what Chaun is doing,'' Campo said.
''He's picking things up really well. You can see
his speed on the field. He's learning something
new every day.''

Andra Davis is not with the Browns for the
scrimmage against the Bills today at St. John
Fisher College because he was excused to attend
his grandfather's funeral in Live Oak, Fla. He
will be back with the team Monday. But for today,
with no Boyer, Davis, Thompson or Unck, the run
defense so maligned last year will be put to the
test while going up against Bills backs Travis
Henry and Willis McGahee.

''We expect to play good run defense,'' coach
Davis said. ''I told the players that during the
season guys are going to get nicked. The whole
part of what we tried to accomplish in the
offseason was add guys like Warrick Holdman and
(defensive end) Ebenezer Ekuban. It gives guys
the opportunity in training camp to realize they
have to be ready. It puts important pressure on
our backup guys to be prepared.''

Holdman is the linebacker signed from the Bears
in free agency in April. He and Eric
Westmoreland, a linebacker signed last week after
the Thompson injury, got more practice time
because of the rash of injuries. So did Sherrod
Coates, a second-year player who saw most of his
action last year on special teams along with
Barry Gardner, Ben Taylor and Kevin Bentley.

Boyer made 80 tackles last season yet started
only six games. He made 18 tackles against the
Rams in a Monday night game Dec. 8. He had 21
special teams tackles last year, 33 in 2002 and
26 in 2001, his first season with the Browns
after six with Jacksonville and one with Miami.

At 6-1, 240 pounds, Boyer is not as physically
imposing as Thompson or Andra Davis, but he plays
smart, and when one of the young linebackers
needs help, Boyer is the one they turn to.

And it isn't only the coaches and linebackers
that wish him a speedy recovery. He is the
personal protector on punts, meaning he's the guy
that lines up about five yards behind and to the
side of long snapper Ryan Pontbriand to pick off
any stray rushers on their way to Derrick Frost
or Ryan Dutton, the two punters battling to
replace Chris Gardocki.

Chris Crocker, Taylor and Bentley have worked as
Frost's personal protector. In addition to being
able to block flawlessly, the player in that
position is also charged with calling out the
blocking schemes, which means he has to recognize
exactly what punt rush the opponent is using.

''Brant is a good guy to have around all the
time, especially in the linebackers' room,''
Taylor said. ''He always has everything upbeat in
the locker room. The young guys watch him week in
and week out on how he prepares himself. From
that standpoint, we're going to miss Brant.

''He makes all the calls on special teams.
Hopefully he can be back before long. He said his
groin was bothering him before that. I told him,
ÔWell, you don't have to worry about your groin,
now.

''But Brant's a great guy. I wish the best for
him. You can't replace Brant, but you want to
uphold what he's brought to the table so far.''

Coach Davis said Boyer was injured without
contact. Boyer planted his foot and when he
moved, the bone broke. It was a recurrence of an
injury sustained in quarterback school in the
spring, Davis said.

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