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Thad Lewis gets first NFL start at QB for Cleveland Browns

BEREA, Ohio -- Once practice ended Friday, Thaddeus Lewis was approached by Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who had great news for the third-string quarterback.

"He said, 'You're the man,' " Lewis said.

And just like that, Lewis became the Browns' starter in Sunday's season finale at Pittsburgh, where he will take his first regular-season NFL snaps against the Steelers and their No. 1-ranked defense.

"It's exciting," Lewis said. "It's a blessing for a childhood dream come true."

Shoulder injuries to starter Brandon Weeden and backup QB Colt McCoy will give Lewis a chance to show what he can do after almost three seasons spent on practice squads, running the scout team and finishing off preseason games with other backups. With Weeden and McCoy unable to practice, Lewis spent all week working with the Browns' first-team offense.

"He's been preparing himself to play all year even though he wasn't on the active roster," Shurmur said. "What we expect is that he goes out and plays winning football."

Weeden finished with 3,385 passing yards, a Browns rookie record. He was inconsistent, but Shurmur believes the 29-year-old's best seasons are ahead.

"Now that he's had a season under his belt, he'll come back here in the offseason, much like a lot of quarterbacks in this league that went on to have really good careers, just pick one," Shurmur said. "They all had rookie years where they were much better in their second year. I think he's shown quite a bit this year that's good."

The Browns also will be without rookie running back Trent Richardson, who sprained his left ankle in the closing seconds of last week's lopsided loss at Denver. Richardson broke almost every Browns rookie rushing record but wound up 50 yards shy of 1,000. It's a disappointing ending for Richardson, who missed all of the preseason following knee surgery and played most of the season with a rib cartilage injury.

Montario Hardesty will start in Richardson's place Sunday.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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