BEREA - There will be shuffling of personnel in the secondary Sunday because of strong safety T.J. Ward's absence.
Ward suffered a knee injury last week against the Washington Redskins and was placed on injured-reserve early this week. He will be replaced by Usama Young.
Young, who normally starts at free safety, will be replaced by rookie Tashaun Gipson. Gipson started two games earlier this season at free safety when Young was out with concussion symptoms.
Coach Pat Shurmur has been high on Gipson since the rookie minicamp last May. Gipson slipped through the draft and was signed as a free agent out of Wyoming.
Shurmur believes there's a long-term future for Gipson beyond his contributions on special teams.
"We feel good about him," Shurmur said. "He's a good athlete. He's been very productive. He's one of a large number of rookies that's gone in and played. His role each week has been a little bit different. Some weeks larger than others. He's going to get a good look this week, of course."
The secondary had been in good shape the last couple of weeks, but the release of nickel cornerback Dimitri Patterson and Ward's injury changed matters.
NO COMMENT: Shurmur doesn't seem pleased with the decision to cut Patterson. The move, made last Monday, basically negated general manager Tom Heckert's belief in Patterson, who signed a three-year, $16 million contract extension last March.
Patterson was claimed off the waiver wire Tuesday by the Miami Dolphins.
"I'm not going to talk about the whys and whats there," Shurmur said. "I'm happy for him that he's going to be able to finish out there in Miami. That will be great for him."
MORE MOVES: In addition to Ward, the Browns also placed linebacker James-Michael Johnson on injured reserve with a knee injury. Shurmur doesn't expect the move to have an impact on his base defense, which in effect will be the nickel package. Craig Robertson could benefit with more time when the Browns aren't in the nickel.
ON BOARD: The Browns added tight end George Bryan to the practice squad. Bryan (6-5, 265) was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys last April. He was a four-year starter at North Carolina State, where he caught 126 passes for 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns.
NOT A THOUGHT: Running back Trent Richardson hasn't given thought to sitting out the final two games now that the Browns are out of the playoff hunt. This could be a challenging week for Richardson, who's been nursing sore ribs most of the season. The cool air and high altitude in Denver will make for difficult breathing conditions.
"None of us are 100 percent right now," Shurmur said. "This time of the year guys are playing through things. If you're nicked, you play."
FOURTH CAPTAIN: Linebacker Kaluka Maiava has been named the fourth captain for Sunday's game in Denver. Maiava has 48 tackles and two sacks. He's broken up three passes and has forced two fumbles.
INJURY REPORT: Not able to practice for the Browns were tight end Jordan Cameron (head) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (shoulder/hip). Limited in their work were receiver Joshua Cribbs (knee), guard Shaun Lauvao (head/foot), receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (knee), defensive lineman Juqua Parker (knee), defensive tackle Phil Taylor (knee) and offensive tackle Joe Thomas (back).