The answer came a split-second after the question was completed. Coach Pat Shurmur was asked whether the Cleveland Browns could win with 15 rookies.
"Absolutely we can win with 15 rookies," he said with conviction. "All I know is that I've seen those guys play good football and that they have fresh legs."
The Browns certainly required an influx of youth, speed and athleticism. They had been among the oldest and slowest teams in the NFL in recent years. But for every trumpeted rookie such as RB Trent Richardson and QB Brandon Weeden, there are several mid-round draft picks who will be thrown into the fire immediately such as DT Billy Winn, WR Travis Benjamin and LB James-Michael Johnson.
Perhaps the most intriguing rookies left standing after the cuts were S Tashaun Gipson and CB Johnson Bademosi. Shurmur said he was impressed with Gipson as a potential every-down safety, but stressed that he considers Bademosi as strictly a special teams player for now. Shurmur understands the need for solid players on the coverage units, which have struggled mightily in the preseason.
GM Tom Heckert went so far as to called Bademosi a "special teams phenom."
Waiting on return of Richardson: Shurmur said he was "very optimistic" rookie RB Trent Richardson will be back "very soon." Richardson made his first appearance on the field Saturday after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery before the preseason opener in Detroit. Richardson did not practice, but he did ride the bike. He has been out three-and-a-half weeks.
Shurmur declined to speculate as to when Richardson must return to practice to play in the season opener against Philadelphia. He said if Richardson does play, he'll play the whole game.
One might assume Richardson would receive fewer carries and more breathers than he normally would. But Heckert called Richardson "a little different cat." He claimed that the rookie will need very little practice time to be ready for the Eagles.
JMJ not yet A-OK: It appears likely rookie OLB James-Michael Johnson (oblique) will not play in the season opener. GM Tom Heckert said it's "going to be a little while" before he returns. But he added that it's "just a pain thing" and that the injury is "nothing serious."
The Browns must come up with a solution at the strong side spot at least for the first three games. It appears starter Scott Fujita will be suspended during that time for his alleged role in Bountygate.
Hardesty finished the preseason with 97 yards on 30 carries and two fumbles that angered Shurmur. Jackson, who seemed to run with more conviction and confidence throughout the preseason, rushed for 135 yards on 34 carries and no fumbles.
It would not be surprising if both received playing time early in the season to solifify the backup role. It was hoped that Richardson would be a workhorse who remains in games in passing and goal-line situations. But the Browns might be careful with him early in the season.