Browns place OL Tucker on injured reserve, ending season, maybe career

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns struggled without offensive lineman Ryan Tucker last season. They'll be without him again -- and maybe for good.

Tucker, who considered retirement before reporting to training camp this summer, was placed on injured reserve by the Browns on Tuesday. The 12-year veteran likely will miss the entire 2009 season, and it's possible he might have played his final NFL game.

Contrary to a broadcast report that Tucker was released by the team, Browns coach Eric Mangini said Tucker, who has been sidelined recently with an unspecified injury, was placed on IR.

Mangini wouldn't confirm reports that Tucker, 34, underwent knee surgery last week. Mangini also didn't know if Tucker plans to retire.

The Browns might be working on an injury settlement, which if completed could lead to Tucker's outright release. Per league rules, the team has five days to reach a settlement or they would have to pay Tucker for the season.

While there are procedural matters to clean up, there's no question about Tucker's impact on the Browns, who signed him as a free agent in 2002.

"He's the physical and emotional leader for the offensive line with the way he plays," Browns center Hank Fraley said. "Just to watch him prepare and all he goes through on game day and what he turns into. It's tough to lose him. But he's had a great career."

Mangini praised Tucker's toughness and work ethic.

"He's an excellent team guy. He's an excellent locker room guy," the Browns' first-year coach said. "He's an excellent example of what a pro should be, and that's how you usually have longevity in the league. He has great toughness and passion for the game. There are a lot of really fine traits with him as a player and as a person that you like and you enjoy being around him."

Mangini left open the possibility of Tucker returning to the team, although that appears to be a long-shot scenario.

"At this time of year, there's different types of IR, there's different things can happen," Mangini said. "We've just got to see how it all plays out."

Tucker couldn't stay healthy in recent years. He finished three of the past five seasons on injured reserve. Last season, he played in one game and helped the Browns overpower the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants 35-14 in a Monday night game. Tucker was placed on IR a few weeks later with a knee injury.

Tucker had overcome a fractured hip in the preseason to play last season. In 2007, Tucker, who mostly played right tackle in Cleveland, was suspended by the league for performance-enhancing drugs.

A fourth-round draft pick in 1997, Tucker spent five seasons with the St. Louis Rams before coming to the Browns.

The Browns also placed veteran offensive lineman Fred Weary on injured reserve. Weary, who has played for the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans, was signed last month after guard Rex Hadnot injured his knee during practice. Hadnot returned to the practice field Monday.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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