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Wilbert Montgomery calls out Browns RBs: 'Nobody wants the role'

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns' tangled running back situation got messier on Sunday.

An offense that wants to rely on running the ball would prefer this situation straighten itself out sooner rather than later.

Shaun Draughn, who had been taking advantage of the absence of other running backs, walked on the practice field with a cast on his left hand, putting him with a lengthy list of backs slowed by injury.

Then after practice, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery said he wants a defined back this season, it "bothers" him nobody has taken hold of the job and it was a "total setback" that not every member of his group reported in premium shape.

"The disappointing thing was that all those guys approaching here and not being in tip-top shape," Montgomery said Sunday. "I think that was a total setback, and now they are climbing back uphill and that's why they're taking a back seat right now."

Montgomery would not equate injuries that have sidelined backs to not being in shape, referring the question to the trainers. But he did emphasize the need for toughness and durability at the position.

"If you're going to be a running back, your job is to get hit and your job is being able to bounce back from injuries really quickly because it's most like playing a game every week," Montgomery said. "Each day you've got to be healthy and ready to go and you've got to play injured, you've got to play sore and you've got to play banged up.

"And if you can't play with those things there, you really can't play."

Terrance West had been out with a calf strain, and rookie Duke Johnson missed the scrimmage and will miss the preseason opener with a hamstring problem.

Cleveland's injuries have given Isaiah Crowell a chance to seize the starter's job, but neither he nor any of his running back teammates have done so.

"Nobody wants the role," Montgomery said.

And he's not pleased about that.

"You'd like to think that the guys that participated, who were here last year, you would like for them to have more of a lead role in that aspect of it," Montgomery said, referring to West and Crowell. "Is it going to happen? I don't know, and that's why I let them know every day, the competition is still the same. It hasn't changed."

Montgomery cautioned four preseason games remain for players to display what they can do. He is about as old school a coach as the Browns have. He played for eight seasons in Philadelphia, started in a Super Bowl and went to the Pro Bowl twice. He also coached Marshall Faulk as running backs coach in St. Louis.

"All the backs are doing well," Montgomery said. "It's just the fact is that you're looking for that guy you can just strap the saddle on and they just say, 'Hey, I want the job.' Right now, it's a close race."

The Browns rotated backs last season, with West and Crowell rotating in and out of the lineup. Montgomery said this season he wants a defined starter, like any other position.

"How can you play and not want to be a starter?" Montgomery said. "I mean to me, it just bothers me that guys don't want to be the lead bell-cow guy. I mean, you want ... this game gives you so much. I always talk to them about what this game gives you as a young person, but what it does for them in life and to their families.

"So if you want to be a backup, then be a backup -- but I mean you're gonna get replaced. At some point you've got to be a starter if you want to hang around."