BEREA - It was a feel-good day Friday when James Haslam III was formally introduced as the new owner of the Browns.
Things weren't as pleasant Saturday when outside linebacker Chris Gocong suffered a torn right Achilles' tendon while covering tight end Jordan Cameron. Gocong was quickly surrounded by members of the medical staff and teammates. He was carted off the field and taken for a MRI. Surgery is scheduled for early next week.
Sensing the worst, some of the veteran players gathered the team together for a short pep talk several plays later.
"Things like that do happen," linebacker Scott Fujita said. "I thought it would be good to get everyone together to talk about that. A thing like that does change the pace of practice. As hard as it is, you have to find a way to rise above it and get back to work. It's hard to do, especially for a guy like Chris, who we all respect so much."
The injury hits a position area that can't afford the loss of personnel. Fujita is likely to miss the first three games as a result of a suspension handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his reported role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal. The starters on the outside early in the season next to middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson could be Kaluka Maiava and rookie James-Michael Johnson.
"I don't want an injury at any position," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We'll just keep moving ahead. Nothing can stop the train."
The defense has been hit hard even before the first snap of the first preseason game. Tackle Phil Taylor tore a pectoral lifting weights during the offseason. He's expected to miss at least the first half of the season. Tackle Ahtyba Rubin showed up at camp recovering from a slight pelvis tear, although he's back on the field. Scott Paxson, who's in line to start in place of Taylor, recently missed time.
"Every year it's something with injuries or what have you," Jackson said. "It's a part of the game that unfortunately you don't get used to but when it happens it's a surprise for everyone. The guys we do have on deck will have to step up. Myself and everyone else are going to have to take it to the next level."
Maiava, a fourth-round draft pick in 2009, has experienced coming off the bench as a replacement. He started six games last season when Gocong moved from the weak side to the strong side after Fujita went down with a knee injury.
Maiava hates to see players as important as Gocong and Fujita on the sideline.
"It's tough losing leaders like that," Maiava said. "Injuries happen sometimes. The next guy up. Everyone is here to win and compete. We'll see what happens."
Maiava played in all 16 games, including three starts, as a rookie when he had 40 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Maiava played in just two games in 2010 because of a serious knee injury. Last season he recorded 24 tackles.
Johnson should see his repetitions with the first team increase. The fourth-round draft choice from the University of Nevada was impressive last Monday when he intercepted quarterback Colt McCoy twice and stopped running back Brandon Jackson in a goal-line drill.
"I'm going to go in there and do my best," Johnson said. "Hopefully, we can get Chris back as soon as possible."
Barring a trade, there's no way the Browns can adequately replace Gocong, who's coming off perhaps the best season of his five-year career.
"He's come so far as a player," Fujita said. "He was rewarded last season by the club (with a new contract), and he came back this offseason and worked really hard. It's tough when you see things like that happen."