Browns cornerback Buster Skrine is out for the remainder of the preseason with a thumb injury.
BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine is hopeful cornerback Buster Skrine will be back for the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday, Sept. 7, but a thumb injury has spoiled at least the remainder of the preseason for the fourth-year pro.
Skrine missed the end of Friday's practice with the thumb injury, and was not on the field during Saturday's drills.
"I'm not sure how long he'll be, but we think he should be available for the opener," Pettine said following Saturday's practice. "He injured his thumb, but we're confident that he should be ready to go for Pittsburgh."
When asked if Skrine will need surgery to repair the thumb injury, Pettine said, "I'll probably know that today."
With Skrine on the shelf, and fellow cornerback Isaiah Trufant sitting out the last two days of practice with a knee injury, the Browns might have to augment their plans in the secondary ahead of Monday's preseason game at the Washington Redskins.
"We might play without a nickel, and just play with a third safety," Pettine said. "K'Waun Williams got a little nicked up. We're not sure what his availability is going to be.
"(Robert) Nelson's another guy that could play inside if he had to. He's been playing primarily outside, so that's all stuff we need to get with (athletic trainer) Joe Sheehan and see where we are health-wise and then, go ahead and build the lineup accordingly."
According to Pettine, prior to the thumb injury, Skrine was having one of the better camps of any Browns player, and did so while competing with rookie Justin Gilbert for a starting job opposite Pro Bowler Joe Haden.
"I think if you were ranking guys on how good of a camp they had, he would be right up there at the top," Pettine said. "He goes out every day, competes with a smile on his face. He loves to play. He's had his share of mistakes, but I think the holding stuff has quieted down ever since (secondary coach Jeff Hafley) had those guys put the gloves on, but I think he's a guy that's improved, and he loves to compete.
"He just doesn't want to hand a job over to Justin Gilbert. I don't think you can have enough corners in today's NFL, and Buster's a guy that's going to have an important role for us."
While the negative is Skrine will be out of the lineup for an extended period of time, the Browns will get a bigger look at Gilbert, who had been sidelined leading up to and for the first preseason game last Saturday with a hamstring injury.
"Justin is doing (well)," defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said. "He had four good practices before he got dinged, and it was quite a competition, and he's only been back for two days now so we'll see how it goes.
"Our plan is to roll those guys the first half of the Redskins game. I want to see him out there in game-action. You can't simulate that in practice, and he's going to get a chance to go up against two pretty damn good receivers in Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson.
"I think that Justin is on his way to being a great corner. If he's not one of our best 11 by week one, I'm going to be happy with the 11 that we trot out there, but I'm very optimistic about Justin. He's doing a great job in the classroom. He's doing a great job out here on the practice field. He's competing. We're in a fortunate situation where we've got three really good (corners)."
Along with Skrine, the Browns are awaiting news on the availability of defensive lineman Desmond Bryant, who has missed the last week of practice.
"He has an issue with his wrist that he's had some doctors look at," Pettine said. "It's something that's been bothering him for a long time.
"At this point, (surgery's) still a possibility."
After missing several practices with an abdominal injury, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon returned to the field on Saturday morning. In addition to running through drills with the wide receivers, Gordon was one of several veterans who served as a kick returner during special-teams drills.
Pettine, and the Browns, remain "hopeful" Gordon will play against the Redskins.
"We'll see how he responded to the activity," Pettine said. "I talked to him during practice. He said he was a little sore, but pushing through it."
Although Gordon returned to practice, he still has not heard from the league on his appeal of an indefinite suspension for a failed drug test in the offseason.
"Not much has changed," Pettine said. "We respect that there's a process. I'd be a liar if I said it wasn't frustrating. I think anybody would be frustrated because you just want to know. We have our plan set, but we're just waiting, patiently waiting -- some people maybe not so patiently -- but it's something that's outside of our control.
"That's something I stressed to the team. We talk about being mentally tough and handling circumstances. We don't control that. Therefore, we won't worry about that."