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Browns begin preseason on eggshells

And down he goes.

The Cleveland Browns swallowed a bitter pill on Monday when a hulking piece of their offensive line was carted off the practice field. It’s still unknown how bad 315-pound Shawn Lauvao’s injury might be, but the knock on the former Arizona State Sun Devil has been inconsistent play.

Any time away for the projected starter is troublesome.

The incident crystallized the worries of a newly assembled coaching staff who have inherited a perennial 5-11 team. Yes, new blood breeds excitement and renews optimism. And the team is saying all the right things as they prepare for its 2013 preseason debut against the increasingly intimidating St. Louis Rams on Thursday.

“I was talking to (Cleveland native Brian) Hoyer about it the other day. I said, man, if we can win some games this place right here will be one of the most electric atmospheres in the league,” left tackle Joe Thomas recently told ESPN Cleveland. “The Dawg Pound and everybody else, it’s great to begin with, and if we win some games the roof will blow off this thing.”

They’re walking the walk. They’re talking the talk.

And they’re doing it all on eggshells.

The Browns cannot exclusively claim the rights to devastating injuries before the official start of the season but there have been several in the past few years that have, frankly, stunted the team’s growth.

Last year third-overall pick Trent Richardson underwent knee surgery and missed the entire preseason. He later admitted to playing hurt all season. Earlier that summer defensive lineman Phil Taylor — also a first round pick — tore a pectoral muscle working out. The Browns were counting on him after he started all 16 games in 2011.

As a result of the injury, he only started seven games during the 2012 campaign.

In 2011, the Browns lost one of the highest paid offensive linemen in the league when Eric Steinbach was placed on injured reserve in August. Steinbach needed surgery to repair a disk in his back.

He soon retired from football.

In 2010, a pair of second-round picks thundered to the ground before Week One. Team leader D’Qwell Jackson tore a pectoral muscle and missed the whole season. He tore his OTHER pectoral muscle in 2009. The Browns were Jackson-less for 10 games that year.

Jackson has since rebounded, signing a lucrative deal with the Browns under the Holmgren regime. His questionable durability, however, is still the elephant in the room.

The other notable injury in early 2010 fell on newly drafted running back Montario Hardesty, who was absolutely expected to compete — if not earn — a starting role. But he tore his ACL in the preseason, and wouldn’t officially dress for the Browns until the following year.

The Browns will play hard on Thursday. The internal drama produced by preseason football has its merits.

But lets steady ourselves, boys. Lets stay upright.

I mean, tell ‘em, Chud.

— Andy Sedlak is a multimedia journalist for WHIO-TV and the Dayton Daily News. He’s been a Cleveland Browns season ticket holder since the team’s rebirth in 1999. He routinely suffers “Bottlegate” flashbacks and still hates Jose Mesa.

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