BEREA, Ohio -- The Browns are running out of running backs.
Montario Hardesty tore a calf muscle in Sunday's loss at San Francisco, leaving Cleveland with just one healthy running back on its current roster. Coach Pat Shurmur said Hardesty will be out an indefinite period.
"It will be games," said Shurmur, adding Hardesty is wearing a protective boot. "It will take him a little time to heal up from this injury. I can't tell you how many (games)."
Hardesty, who missed his rookie season following knee surgery and was starting because Peyton Hillis is injured, was injured on Cleveland's second series. Hardesty was making his second straight start because Hillis missed his second straight game with a strained hamstring. Shurmur said Hillis, whose season has been a disaster with his ongoing contract situation and injuries, did some light running and is day-to-day.
Shurmur said Hardesty has a "moderate tear of a medial gastrocnemius" muscle, the large muscle at the back of his lower leg.
"Any doctors in here?" Shurmur joked, attempting to lighten the mood during his news conference.
The Browns (3-4) will bring in running backs for tryouts Tuesday at the team's training facility, Shurmur said. Currently, Chris Ogbonnaya is the only healthy back on the team's 53-man roster. Ogbonnaya has been with the club for less than two weeks, signed off Houston's practice squad on Oct. 18.
On Sunday, Ogbonnaya was pressed into duty and ran for 37 yards on 11 carries and caught five passes. If he had gotten hurt, fullback Owen Marecic was the club's only available option at tailback.
If Hillis can't play this week, Ogbonnaya may have to start when the Browns visit the Texans (5-3). Hillis traveled with the team to San Francisco, but was ruled out shortly before kickoff. He returned to practice last Wednesday for the first time since getting hurt on Oct. 16, but was sore the following day.
It's not immediately known which running backs the Browns will have in for workouts.
Cleveland's medical issues in the backfield began during the exhibition season when Brandon Jackson was lost for the season with a toe injury. The Browns have rookie Armond Smith on the practice squad, and Shurmur said wide receiver Josh Cribbs could be used at running back, but that seems unlikely.
Shurmur made it clear the Browns can't use injuries as an excuse. Those don't work in the NFL.
"Well, our list of runners has increased," he said. "We like to think that we can still run the football. Whoever's running the ball, whoever's lining up at tailback will have that opportunity. We've sustained some injuries and we've had our first, second and third guy get hurt. We just have to keep playing.
"I've told the team this too, once you make the first excuse, it's a slippery slope. There are no excuses. The task at hand now is getting the team back, ready to play Houston. No excuses and we've got to go down there with a plan to try to beat them, regardless of who's playing."
Injuries are only compounding the Browns' offensive woes in Shurmur's first season.
Cleveland has scored just 16 points the past two weeks, quarterback Colt McCoy is facing constant pressure up front and the Browns don't have enough playmakers to help their young QB.
Without a legitimate running game, the Browns are having to throw more and they're having to do so while playing from behind. On Sunday, the 49ers, helped by a strip sack of McCoy on Cleveland's second play, jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Through seven games, the Browns have been outscored 44-3 in the opening quarter.
The Browns have tried to avoid falling behind early, but to this point nothing has worked.
"Our slow starts hurt us and it affects coach's ability to call the game the way he wants to," said tight end Evan Moore. "We get behind early, like yesterday, you know a turnover in our own territory basically gives them seven points. When you get behind like that it makes it pretty tough. When you have a lead, when you can run the ball and control the game clock which we haven't had this year, it makes it a lot easier on coaches and playcallers
"We've just got to do a better job of starting better. I know you guys have heard that a thousand times."
Nickel back Dimitri Patterson is awaiting results of an MRI taken on his injured left knee. Patterson, who was injured in the third quarter Sunday, said his knee felt stiff but he's confident it's not seriously injured. "It looked worse than it was," he said. ... Shurmur said starting LB Chris Gocong sustained a neck stinger. He missed the entire exhibition season with a similar injury. ... Shurmur had high praise for his defense, which limited the 49ers to less than 100 yards in the second half.