Injuries to Duke Johnson, Terrance West prompt Browns to sign RBs

Terrance West, who led the Browns in carries and yards last season, will be out for an undisclosed period of time. Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports

A team that wants to rely on running the ball to win does not need to be shuttling running backs on and off the roster.

That's the situation the Cleveland Browns are in right now, though, as the team added two backs to make up for injuries to four.

It's early and preseason has yet to start, so the situation is hardly crippling. However, it is a concern as the team will be without three of its top four (or five) backs for the foreseeable future.

Monday, the players day off, the Browns signed Timothy Flanders and Jalen Parmele to join the running back room. Released were wide receiver Kevin Cone and defensive back Brandon Stephens.

The Browns aren't exactly forthcoming on injuries, so they aren't revealing details on how long Terrance West, Duke Johnson, Glenn Winston and Luke Lundy are expected to be out. There was hope, though, that West might be back for Tuesday's practice.

The concern with missed time is a lost opportunity to learn the new offense and system, and potential lost conditioning. The effects can linger -- especially for a rookie like Johnson who has a hamstring issue, an injury that also can linger. Over and over in past years, the Browns have seen rookies go through holdouts or be injured in camp and take significant time to recover and get back to their normal level. How the situation affects Johnson will play out.

Johnson was slated to be the team's quick-footed change-of-pace back this season. His open-field skills and ability to make people miss had coaches gushing with high hopes in offseason work. A lingering hamstring injury would be especially troubling for a back who relies on agility and quickness like Johnson.

Pettine would only say that Johnson "could be a little bit" before he returns. "A little bit" for a coach reluctant to discuss injuries could be a week or two. The vague reference to "a little bit" was followed by Pettine saying the team was confident it would get West back soon.

West led the Browns in carries and rushing last season (171 for 673), but admitted this offseason he acted immaturely at times and needed to be more of a pro. He and Isaiah Crowell will probably compete for the bulk of the "regular" carries. Pettine was hopeful West could return Tuesday, but then the Browns signed two backs.

Winston played five games on special teams last season after being claimed off waivers from San Francisco. The team brought him back for 2015, but his on-field performance has never matched the off-field praise Winston has received from coaches. Pettine said Winston showed up for camp with "a ding." He has yet to work on the field.

Lundy, an undrafted rookie, left practice on Sunday with a concussion.

Flanders is a 5-9 guy in his first season out of Sam Houston State. Parmele is in his fourth season. He has played for three teams, including the Ravens.

Health is a concern for every team in preseason and training camp. Sometimes injuries hit certain position groups harder than others. While not crippling, nagging injuries can be nagging to a team.

The Browns have to be hoping that this spate of nagging problems is nothing more than a short-term hurdle.