A week ago, Brian Hoyer walked out of FirstEnergy Stadium as a hometown hero.
On Thursday night, the Browns quarterback left on crutches, his right knee immobilized in a brace.
Cleveland's feel-good story is now tinged with pain.
Hoyer, the local kid who led the Browns to back-to-back wins in his first two starts, sustained a potentially serious knee injury Thursday night in a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills, who had rookie quarterback EJ Manuel go down with a sprained knee.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Hoyer has a sprain and will have an MRI on Friday. But the sight of Hoyer hobbling out of the locker room and the tone of many of his teammates indicated the 27-year-old could miss significant time.
"You hate to see that,'' said Brandon Weeden, who replaced Hoyer and rallied the Browns (3-2) to their third straight win. "I can't really put it into words, it's a tough situation.''
As Hoyer slid following an 11-yard scramble in the first quarter, both of his legs were awkwardly bent when he was hit from the side by Bills rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso just a few yards in front of Cleveland's sideline, which protested for a penalty to be called. Hoyer was in obvious pain as he was checked by Cleveland's medical personnel. He spent a few minutes on a trainer's table on the sideline before limping to the locker room for tests and treatment.
At halftime, Chudzinski told the NFL Network that he feared Hoyer had torn ligaments. He did not go that far afterward, and Chudzinski said he wanted to see the test results before making any predictions about how long Hoyer might be out.
"I don't want to be too premature,'' he said. "Let's find out what the status is and see what the MRI says. Obviously any time you lose a guy and he has to go out of the game, a guy that has done what he has done, it's disappointing.''
Just when Cleveland's quarterback conundrum seemed settled, a new development.
Hoyer had taken the starting job from Weeden, who sprained his thumb in Week 2 and was only cleared to play this week. Chudzinski decided to stick with Hoyer, but will now have to go with Weeden, who threw a 37-yard TD pass to Josh Gordon in the third quarter to rally the Browns, who trailed 10-0 in the first half and 24-17 in the third quarter.
Hoyer's injury wasn't the only significant one as Manuel also sprained his knee, Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson hurt his back and Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant was hospitalized with shortness of breath.
Here are five things we learned in watching the Browns take over sole possession of first in the AFC North with their win over the Bills.
MANUEL LABOR: Like Hoyer, Manuel was injured on a running play.
At the end of a 14-yard pickup, Manuel was whacked on his right knee by the helmet of Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, who seemed to be a nuisance to the Bills all evening.
Following the game, Bills coach Doug Marrone was drilled by reporters about whether he would prefer Manuel to run out of bounds and not risk injury.
"E.J.'s a tough kid. He took a shot, he scrambled, he made a first down, he was trying to score a touchdown,'' Marrone said. "What do you say? `Don't scramble, don't score touchdowns.'''
RUN, TRAVIS, RUN: Browns return specialist Travis Benjamin broke some tackles and a record with a magnificent performance.
Benjamin returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown in the first half, a dazzling run in which he outran some Bills defenders, avoided others with his shiftiness and ran through a couple tackles. He was a blur wearing brown.
"Fastest man alive,'' Browns tight end Jordan Cameron said of his teammate. "I don't know why they keep punting to him. But soon they'll figure out that he's the fastest guy on the field.''
Benjamin finished with a franchise record 179 yards, bettering the mark held by Eric Metcalf (166) in 1993.
UNHAPPY RETURNS: The Bills gave up two TD returns, Benjamin's and a 44-yard interception runback by Browns safety T.J. Ward, who stepped in front of rookie Jeff Tuel's pass over the middle and took it to the end zone untouched.
"A misread on my part,'' said Tuel, who finished 8 of 20 for 80 yards. "I didn't see the safety flying down.''
STEVIE WONDER: Johnson had two catches for 19 yards - and set up a score by drawing an interference penalty in the end zone - before leaving with his back injury. Johnson missed some practice time in the spring with a back issue and tried to loosen his back with some stretching on the sideline, but retreated to the locker room in the closing minutes of the first half.
Marrone said the Bills had some plays designed for Johnson but couldn't use them.
"He started off well,'' Marrone said. "He tried to push through it, which I appreciate from him, and we were going to get him some plays.''
UP AND DOWN BROWNS: In five weeks, the Browns have changed quarterbacks, traded their star running back, lost two straight and won three in a row. October just began and already they've been through a season's worth of events.
"It's such an adversity-driven league, you've got to respond,'' Weeden said. "That just shows the strength and the will of this football team.''
A week ago, Brian Hoyer walked out of FirstEnergy Stadium as a hometown hero.
'Twice as Nice'
When it comes to the 3A State Tournament and Oklahoma City, the Verdigris High School basketball teams are a household name.
Head coaches Randy Upshaw and Mike Buntin lead their programs back to the 'Capitol City' this week for a chance to hoist the coveted 3A state championship on Saturday night at the Big House.
Cards fly into 3A State Tournament
Verdigris junior guard Cade Upshaw lives for March Madness.
The 5-foot-10 sharp-shooter overcame a sluggish performance in a loss to Tahlequah Sequoyah to bounce back for a 20-point outing in the Cardinals’ 72-42 win over Antlers Saturday evening in the Class 3A Area Tournament at Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Vinita eliminates Inola
Vinita used an 18-point third quarter — highlighted by the sophomore leadership of Carsyn Spurgeon — and converted 21-of-34 free throws to notch a 61-55 win over the Inola Lady Longhorns Saturday night in the Class 4A Area Tournament.
‘Soaring to State’
In the hometown of Carrie Underwood, Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell proved to be Oklahoma’s ‘Basketball Idol’ in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
The 5-foot-8 floor general put the No. 4-ranked Lady Cardinals on her shoulders and carried Verdigris back to the the state tournament with the 53-40 win over No. 5 Tahlequah Sequoyah Friday night in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Stilwell advances to State
A jam-packed, vocal crowd — aided by the control of several Claremore Police officers — witnessed Stilwell’s come-from-behind 57-51 win over Harrah Saturday night in the must-win game of the Class 4A Area Tournament at the Claremore High School Gymnasium.
High School Basketball State Tournament Brackets
The Oklahoma High School Basketball State Tournaments will get under way this week in Oklahoma City and the Tulsa-Metro Area.
Below is a listing of the Class 3A-6A State Tournament Pairings.
Arkansas fires women's basketball coach Tom Collen
Arkansas fired women's basketball coach Tom Collen on Friday, bringing a close to a disappointing stretch for the program.
The Razorbacks (19-11) lost in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament to Mississippi on Wednesday, the eighth time in nine seasons they've failed to advance past the opening game.
SEC MBB: Alabama snaps Arkansas' 6-game win streak
Trevor Releford scored 24 points and Shannon Hale added 18 to lead Alabama to an 83-58 victory over Arkansas on Saturday, snapping the Razorbacks' six-game winning streak.
SEC MBB: Tennessee trounces Missouri, 72-45
Antonio Barton scored 16 points and Jarnell Stokes had a double-double Saturday as Tennessee trounced Missouri 72-45 to win its fourth straight game and boost its NCAA tournament hopes.
BIG 12 MBB: Crockett leads Texas Tech past Texas
Jaye Crockett scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Texas Tech to a 59-53 win over Texas in a regular-season finale on Saturday.
This was the Red Raiders' (14-17, 6-12 Big 12) first win over the Longhorns (22-9, 11-7) since 2008 in Lubbock.
- More Sports Headlines
- 'Twice as Nice'