BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Week 3. Quarterback No. 3.
The Browns are up to their usual changes, just a lot earlier than normal.
Third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer will start Sunday against Minnesota in place of injured Brandon Weeden, who sprained his right thumb last week and could be sidelined for several games.
Cleveland first-year coach Rob Chudzinski surprisingly decided to start Hoyer over more experienced backup Jason Campbell. Hoyer had been listed as Cleveland’s third-string quarterback since training camp opened behind Campbell.
“I feel like based on our current situation — where we’re at offensively as well as getting into the game planning for Minnesota — that Brian’s strengths are the best fit for this week and that he gives us our best chance to win,” Chudzinski said. “The things that he does well fit what we need. For me, it’s about who gives us the best chance to win.”
Chudzinski did not commit to giving the starting job back to Weeden when he returns from injury.
“I’m going to leave all the options open,” Chudzinski said. “Really, it’s a matter of where he’s at from a health standpoint and all that plays into it and where we’re at and how guys are playing as well.”
When he was Cleveland’s offensive coordinator in 2007, Chudzinski oversaw the benching of starter Charlie Frye after the opener for Derek Anderson. The change sparked the Browns, who finished 10-6 with a record-setting offense.
Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas called Hoyer leap-frogging Campbell on the depth chart “unusual.” Hoyer is the 19th quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999.
Weeden injured his thumb when he banged it on the helmet of teammate John Greco during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 14-6 loss to Baltimore. The second-year starter will visit a hand specialist on Thursday, when he should get a better sense of how long he will be out.
“You never want to get hurt,” said Weeden, who was sacked 11 times in Cleveland’s two losses. “I don’t care when it is, could be the 16th game or the first game, as a player, you want to be out there. So, yeah it is frustrating. Even though the results weren’t there offensively, we were starting to do some better things.
“I want to be out there with my guys.”
Weeden is confident Hoyer, who has made one career start, will give the Browns (0-2) a spark.
Hoyer said Chudzinski told him Tuesday that he would get the start. It’s a dream assignment for Hoyer, who grew up in Cleveland rooting for the Browns and signed with his hometown team in May after spending last season with Arizona.
“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “This is an opportunity you practice for, you prepare for. Obviously, I’m excited and I’ll try to take advantage of it and try to give this team everything I’ve got to help us get that first win.”
Hoyer made one start with the Cardinals last season after spending the three previous years in New England as Tom Brady’s backup. Hoyer was third on the Browns’ depth chart all summer and inactive in Cleveland’s first two regular-season games.
The 27-year-old Hoyer started the exhibition finale after Campbell fell ill before the game in Chicago. Hoyer completed 24 of 35 passes for 307 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
Browns general manager Michael Lombardi has long admired Hoyer, who has something to prove after being waived by New England, Pittsburgh and Arizona within a nine-month span.
“Every situation is unique and this is one that when I came here, this is what I came here for — to play,” he said. “You don’t come here to be just a guy, and I think anybody who plays this position in this league, they want to be on the field. But unfortunately, there can only be one. It’s not like there’s four receivers or two tight ends or five linemen. There can only be one quarterback out there and you want to be that guy.
“And if you don’t have that drive, then you really don’t belong.”
Campbell, who has made 71 career starts, was not available when the locker room was open to reporters.
Also, Chudzinski said wide receiver Greg Little will not start against the Vikings. Little has been plagued by dropped passes and he has been having issues off the field with several driving violations.
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