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Browns adjust to life without Alex Mack

BEREA, Ohio -- Even an official gave Alex Mack a shout-out as Mack was carted off the field with a broken leg during the Cleveland Browns' 31-10 win against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Back judge Dale Shaw reached out and shook Mack's hand, then pointed to him. That show of respect followed the show from Mack's teammates, most of whom left the sideline to shake Mack's hand or wish him well.

"The best thing about that," coach Mike Pettine said, "was that it was spontaneous."

Such are the feelings for Mack in the locker room, and in the league. He is a pro's pro who has been dependable, smart and talented since Eric Mangini made him a first-round draft pick.

But the Browns may not have him for the rest of the season as Mack will have surgery this week to repair a broken fibula. Pettine said that if Mack has only a broken leg there is a chance he will return later this season, but if it's worse -- and the way his ankle twisted on replay was not pretty -- he'd be done for the season.

The Browns will look at other players, including Nick McDonald (just activated from the non-football injury list), but John Greco will get the first chance. Greco will slide from right guard to center, with Paul McQuistan stepping in at guard. Greco made the move in-game and on the fly on Sunday.

"There wasn't much going through my mind other than 'Don't screw this up,'" he said. "There isn't much time to think. You just have to roll with it."

The Steelers challenged Greco on the first play, sending two linebackers up the middle.

"They tried to catch us off guard," Greco said. "Fortunately for us we saw it early and just reacted and were able to spring Isaiah for a good run."

"Pittsburgh tested him," quarterback Brian Hoyer said. "They brought a blitz right up the middle and he made a great call, great block."

Pittsburgh also played into the Browns when Cleveland had called an outside run. That helped Isaiah Crowell gain 16 yards.

The Browns do not pretend that Greco is Alex Mack, but he brings some of the same toughness and smarts that Mack has. He has the gnarly offensive-line attitude teams like. And he's a guy Pettine never hesitated to support as he made him the right guard.

The Browns ask their linemen to know all the assignments and calls on plays in case injuries force shuffling, so Greco knew the calls at center. He now will make the protection calls the way Mack did.

"(The center) makes the initial call and then we all do our combinations off of it ..." Greco said. "That'll actually be less for me now. I won't have to worry about, 'I'm doing this with the center and this with the tackle. I'll just say one thing and everyone should know they're doing off of that."

McQuistan started 14 games for Seattle last season, so the Browns at least have a veteran backup capable of stepping in (Ray Farmer signed him in the offseason).

Losing Mack matters, but as Pettine said, the rest of the team should not be looking for sympathy cards in the mail this week.

"Those guys are going to do everything they can to step in and step up," Hoyer said. "But everyone knows what Alex means to this offense."