CLEVELAND - The last four games of the season might not mean much to the Browns, but they'll be important to rookie cornerback Leon McFadden.
With cornerback Chris Owens being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, the door is open for McFadden to show coaches what he has to offer. McFadden has appeared in each of the 12 games, but his role will expand now that Owens is lost for the season.
McFadden will likely be assigned to the slot receiver in three-receiver sets. Buster Skrine will undoubtedly move outside to replace Owens.
McFadden missed time during training camp with an injury, which set him back in his progress at cornerback. He's found the switch from playing for San Diego State in college to the NFL to be a big step.
"Before I came into the NFL and was in the draft process, they said it's going to be the longest year of your life," McFadden said. "It definitely is."
McFadden was used in a limited capacity as a deep safety last Sunday against the Jaguars. The versatility to play corner and safety should help his cause for more playing time.
"The more you know, the longer you'll last in the league," McFadden said. "Being put in different positions and fitting into the scheme, I'm taking advantage of all the opportunities."
McFadden knows that a smart, veteran quarterback like Tom Brady will attempt to take advantage of a rookie.
"I understand that," McFadden said. "I'm going to step up to the plate and handle that task."
NOT SURPRISED: Patriots coach Bill Belichick wished Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer a speedy return from season-ending knee surgery. Hoyer backed by Brady for three seasons in New England.
Belichick isn't surprised that Hoyer was successful during his short run as the starter for the Browns.
"Brian has a tough, competitive style," Belichick said. "He's smart and sees the field well. I wish him well. I hope things are going well with his recovery. I've communicated with him and his family a couple of times."
THE BEST: Browns coach Rob Chudzinski referred to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski as the best in the NFL at his position. Gronkowski has 37 receptions for 560 yards and four touchdowns in five appearances since returning from a series of injuries. He's averaging 15.1 yards per reception.
"It's an honor to hear that," Gronkowski said. "Every week I have to work in everything that I can improve on."
ROSTER MOVES: In addition to Owens, linebacker Brandon Magee was placed on IR with a pectoral injury. Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant has been placed on the reserve/non-football injury list with an irregular heartbeat. Bryant was removed from a game earlier this season and taken to the Cleveland Clinic for overnight evaluations after having trouble breathing.
Receiver Brian Tyms has been promoted from the practice squad to the active roster.
INJURY REPORT: Quarterbacks Jason Campbell (concussion) and Brandon Weeden (concussion) didn't practice. Linebacker Tank Carder (shoulder), linebacker Craig Robertson (knee) and tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) were limited.
Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (ankle), receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) and linebacker Brandon Spikes (non-injury) didn't practice for the Patriots. Players that were limited included cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (groin), Marquice Cole (shin), Aqib Talib (hip) and Alfonzo Dennard (knee); tight ends Michael Hoomanawuni (knee) and Gronkowski (back/forearm/hamstring); safety Steve Gregory (finger); offensive lineman Will Svitek (ankle), and receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (hip).