Browns cautious with 12 players, including five starters, hit by flu

BEREA, Ohio -- Just when it couldn't get any worse for the woeful Cleveland Browns, it did.

The team has been sacked by the flu.

Twelve players, including Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers and five other starters, missed practice Wednesday with flulike symptoms as the team began installing the game plan for Sunday's matchup against the Green Bay Packers.

Mangini scaled back the workout in hopes of keeping his healthy players from getting sick. He's also emphasizing preventive measures to stop the virus from spreading deeper through the team. If players show any symptoms, the Browns send them home.

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"We're being really aggressive preventatively," Mangini said. "If there's any sign of it and we think it's heading that way, we'd much rather try to minimize the effects on the player and also possibly the exposure to the rest of the group."

Mangini implied that the sick players hadn't yet been tested for H1N1 virus. He said some of the cases were new, and he might not be able to reveal any test results because of medical privacy laws.

As the Browns practiced, a large box containing white pharmacy bags containing Tamiflu, a prescribed medicine to treat and prevent flu, was delivered to the team's headquarters.

The Browns' sick players are: Rogers, running back Jerome Harrison, center Alex Mack, cornerback Anthony Madison, safety Brodney Pool, tight end Robert Royal, wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, linebacker Jason Trusnik, defensive end Brian Schaefering, fullback Lawrence Vickers, defensive end Corey Williams and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.

Mangini hopes his players recover in time for Sunday's game, but if they aren't healthy, the NFL has roster provisions to protect teams overwhelmed by swine flu.

League spokesman Greg Aiello said all teams received a memo from commissioner Roger Goodell on Oct. 2. It states: "If a club has at least six players unable to participate as the result of confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu, it can receive roster exemptions for those players and promote players from its own practice squad to replace them. A club can receive a max of eight such exemptions. They must be medically confirmed cases of swine flu. This procedure does not apply to any other type of flu or illness. There is a deadline for promoting practice squad players pursuant to these procedures at four hours prior to kickoff."

Wimbley missed last Sunday's game in Pittsburgh, and Rogers was sick during the 27-14 loss to the Steelers. The Browns tried to keep Wimbley isolated from the team, and he was driven to the road game while the other players took a bus. However, Wimbley never got well enough to play and was sent home. Rogers was driven back to Ohio in a separate vehicle.

The Browns are ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in virtually every team statistic, and the flu bug hit in the same week that they lost their leading tackler, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, to a season-ending shoulder injury.

Return specialist Joshua Cribbs is one of several Browns appreciative of Mangini's proactive approach to the virus.

"A lot of us players have small kids at home," Cribbs said. "I have a 4-month-old, and Coach has kids. So he's just protecting our families; we don't want to bring these diseases home. Coach is a family man and thinks of family first. We just want to make sure that when guys feel sick they take care of it and take care of themselves so they can be ready to go on Sunday."

Cribbs didn't receive a flu shot.

"I feel like I've got a good immune system," he said. "I've been working out real hard, building my endorphins. Not that other guys don't. But I'm healthy. I'm good to go."

Last week, the Cleveland Cavaliers were hit hard by severe cases of the flu. LeBron James was among six players who missed practices or exhibition games with Influenza A. The NBA team treated its players for H1N1 virus before knowing test results.

The Browns consulted with the Cavaliers and baseball's Cleveland Indians on how to deal with the high volume of flu cases.

Linebacker David Bowens said he wasn't too concerned about so many Browns being out of practice.

"Today, no. Sunday, yes," he said. "It's a cause of concern, especially when guys have to be here to get the installation, get what we're supposed to do this week. It kind of sucks, really, because guys are missing a lot of information because they're out."

Bowens isn't worried about catching the flu.

"All I can do is do all the preventive steps, washing my hands and all that stuff that goes along with going to kindergarten class," he said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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