TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — The risk was too high for Browns coach Rob Chudzinski. He’d rather be safe than sorry.
With the possibility of getting some of his top players hurt, Cleveland’s rookie coach opted to rest the majority of his starters Thursday night in the final exhibition game against the Chicago Bears.
On Tuesday, Chudzinski said he was considering playing his starters for “10 to 12 reps” in the final tuneup before the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against Miami. However, Chudzinski chose to sit nearly all of them, and a team spokesman relayed the coach’s decision Wednesday before the Browns left for Chicago.
Backup quarterback Jason Campbell is expected to start instead of Brandon Weeden, who struggled last week in a 27-6 loss to Indianapolis. Earlier this week, Weeden said he would welcome the chance to get back on the field but won’t get the chance until he faces the Dolphins.
Campbell didn’t practice Tuesday because of an unspecified illness, but the team spokesman said the veteran is feeling better. Third-string QB Brian Hoyer is likely to play most of the second half.
Running back Trent Richardson, who showed tremendous quickness during last week’s game against the Colts, will also sit along with all of Cleveland’s offensive linemen except right guard Oneil Cousins, who zoomed up the depth chart following ankle injuries to Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston.
Chudzinski said Cousins has an “edge” to start in the opener over rookie Garrett Gilkey.
Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas didn’t seemed thrilled about the possibility of playing Thursday, but he understood Chudzinski’s reasoning if he decided to go that route.
“I haven’t played in the fourth preseason game since 2008 or so,” Thomas said Tuesday. “It’s been about five years. Every coach has a philosophy and he’ll back it up with a philosophy of wanting to play X number of plays or so. In the end, it doesn’t really matter as long as you stay healthy. The fourth game is really all about some of the young guys trying to earn a job. If they can’t make this team, they are trying to put together good film so they get picked up by somebody else.”
Wide receivers Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon, who is suspended for the first two regular-season games, will start. The Browns want to keep Gordon as fresh as possible before his layoff for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
On defense, outside linebacker Quentin Groves and end Billy Winn will start. They are listed as backups on the depth chart but are currently starters because of injuries to Jabaal Sheard (knee) and Desmond Bryant (back spasms).
Punters Spencer Lanning and Colton Schmidt, awarded to the Browns off waivers from San Francisco, will share duties against the Bears.
NOTES: The Browns said rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo worked out with weights on Wednesday. The first-round draft pick hasn’t practiced since bruising his lung on Aug. 15 against Detroit and being hospitalized for two days. Mingo did some running on Tuesday. Chudzinski said there is no timetable on Mingo’s return, and it’s not yet known if he’ll play in the opener. … The Browns were awarded rookie LB Eric Martin on waivers from New Orleans and waived second-year cornerback Trevin Wade, a seventh-round pick last season from Arizona. Wade injured his shoulder while trying to make a diving interception during a training camp practice. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Martin originally signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent on April 28. He played in all three exhibition games, recording one special teams tackle. New Orleans waived him Tuesday.
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