McGinest to have back surgery, will miss six weeks

BEREA, Ohio -- Browns linebacker Willie McGinest was scheduled to have back surgery Thursday and will miss at least six weeks, another blow to a Cleveland team decimated by major injuries the past few seasons.

McGinest, who has made 159 starts during a 13-year NFL career, was to have the operation in Los Angeles.

After a week of rest following the procedure on a bulging disk, he'll begin rehab. The Browns will re-evaluate McGinest in six weeks, coach Romeo Crennel said.

The 35-year-old McGinest signed as a free agent before last season after winning three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

Losing McGinest wasn't the only blow on Thursday for the Browns. Backup linebacker Matt Stewart had surgery to repair a torn muscle in his left shoulder and will likely be placed on injured reserve.

Crennel said inside linebacker Chaun Thompson will move to the outside in McGinest's spot. Thompson started 15 games for the Browns at outside linebacker in 2005. Antwan Peek worked with Cleveland's first-team defense during practice.

McGinest has been dealing with back issues for several seasons. Earlier this week he asked the Browns for permission to see his personal physician in California.

"He had a little bit of pain and some discomfort with it," Crennel said. "An MRI showed that it was a disk. I think it was in the same area that he had some previous work done which made it a little bit more difficult to evaluate."

Crennel said there are no immediate plans to put McGinest on injured reserve.

"He's going to come back and we're going to try to get him ready to play the rest of the season," he said. "Backs are backs and they are fickle sometimes. But after the first six weeks we'll see how the rehab is going and that will be an indicator as how soon he'll be back.

"Willie wants to get back as soon as he can because he wants to play. That's probably one of the reasons why he decided to go ahead and do the procedure now rather then wait. If something flares up during the season, he'll miss more time because of it."

Crennel also confirmed that left guard Eric Steinbach, the club's prized free-agent signing, has a sprained knee. Steinbach got hurt when he fell on his knee during an indoor practice on Monday.

"I'm not quite sure how long he will be (out)," Crennel said. "But they (doctors) feel like he should be back in time for the regular season."

Steinbach, who signed a seven-year, $49.5 million deal in March, was brought in to stabilize Cleveland's offensive line. But his injury is the latest setback to the unit. Last week, right tackle Ryan Tucker was suspended for the first four games of the regular season for failing a steroids test.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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