CLEVELAND − The Browns took a massive AFC North win early in the season on Thursday night. However, during their 29-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, they also got some big injury questions about the defense.
None of these were bigger than the quad injury that linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. rose early in the third quarter. Walker lay face down on the turf for several minutes before finally being driven off the field.
In the same series that injury occurred, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah left with a groin injury and defensive tackle Taven Bryan did the same with a hamstring injury. Neither of them returned to the match.
Coach Kevin Stefanski said in a Zoom call on Friday with the media that the team was still waiting for the results of the MRIs done on each of those injuries. Shortly after the call, however, a competition source confirmed to the Beacon Journal that Walker tore his quad tendon and will require season-end surgery.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report. The team officially announced the diagnosis later Friday afternoon and placed Walker on the injured reserved list.
A source also confirmed that neither Owusu-Koramoah nor Bryan’s injuries are seen as long-term concerns, something ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler first reported. So does safety Ronnie Harrison Jr., who sustained a hamstring injury during pre-game warmups and didn’t play, and Jedrick Wills Jr. tackled, who did return after a leg injury in the fourth quarter stage.
Walker’s loss will be the longest hit for the defense of the Browns. Given the MRI results, a trip to the injured reserve is in the future, with a five to seven month recovery.
“Obviously, when you see the attention on the field, it didn’t look good,” Stefanski said on Friday. “I think that’s clear. We’re hoping against all hope for Anthony. We talked to him last night. He’s a huge, huge, huge part of our football team, which he brings to us on the pitch, off the pitch. So we’ll see what the MRI entails, but then I’ll just wait and see.”
Walker’s leading role is undisputed with the Browns. He was one of two defensive players to be chosen by his teammates as one of the five captains for the entire season. He is also identified by the green dot on his helmet, which means he received the radio communications from Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods.
Stefanski said the green dot would go to the player who will replace Walker in the lineup, Jacob Phillips. Phillips led the Browns with seven combined tackles, plus a big sack from third down and another big breakup from third down against the Steelers.
“He communicates well,” Stefanski said. “There were two plays he made late in the game with the blitz and the looting and then the PBU that were excellent. I’m just proud of Jacob because you wish you could put 12 guys in front of the defense and we listed him as a starter with Anthony asked because those guys, we think, are both capable of starting.”
‘Leave it to the competition’ on Steelers OT Chukwuma Okorafor
What some noticed about the game where Walker was injured was what Steelers tackled right Chukwuma Okorafor did after the Browns linebacker came down. Walker initially seems to get his foot stuck in the turf and he stops, only to be knocked back by Okorafor.
However, while Walker was clearly face down on the ground, Okorafor came back and jumped on top of him. Stefanski was asked if that was something he could send to the NFL office for further investigation,
“I’ll let the league handle those things,” Stefanski said.
Time to open the mini-bye for Browns players, coaches
Thursday night games like the one the Browns played against the Steelers can be tricky up front. Sometimes, as is the case with some of Cleveland’s out-of-game injuries, it can be a pain now and in the future.
However, there is an advantage that comes from playing on Thursday. It gives the teams playing a chance for a little break that they normally only get during their full farewell week.
“You’re always interested when the schedule comes out, where the Thursday night game is and where your farewell week is,” Stefanski said. “It’s a mini-bye in many ways. Hopefully we can heal and recharge these 10 days guys. Up front [of the Thursday night game], you have to play. I mentioned it last night, there are so many guys who pushed to make it to that match, which I am really proud of. Then they deserved the free time on the other side.”
That free time also includes the coaching staff. Stefanski said the coaches were also supposed to try to get away from the facility for the next few days before starting preparations for the Oct. 2 game in the Atlanta Falcons.
“We’ll take a little break here,” he said, “but it does give you a chance to do a little three-game study of yourself and then do some work on Atlanta.”
Myles Garrett gets extra attention from the edge
An edge rusher the size of Myles Garrett can’t help but expect some extra attention from opponents. That will be all the more true when Jadeveon Clowney is sidelined for suffering an ankle injury during Thursday’s win.
Garrett had two assisted tackles and one quarterback hit in the win over the Steelers. Often he fought not only with left tackle Dan Moore Jr., but also with others who came to help.
“That’s what you can expect,” Stefanski said. “Teams are going to wait to see where he lines up, and they’re going to move the tight end to his side, they’re going to send the line his way, and they’re going to send the back his way. That’s just the nature of how teams view us.” “Going to try to defend. It provides opportunities for guys. There are things we did last night and things we will continue to do to try and free him. It’s no secret.”
Also no secret is that Garrett remains half a sack behind Clay Matthews’ 62 “official” sack record. The sack was not considered an official NFL stat until 1982.
Garrett was last fired when he knocked out Joe Flacco with just over eight minutes left in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Jets. He also fired Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield twice in the opener.
“I think you decide what you can control,” Stefanski said. “Premier rushers get that kind of attention. I think of Von Miller when we played him a few years ago. You’re going to get someone to chip him every game. That’s just what teams do.”
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On Twitter: @ceasterlingABJ
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns’ Anthony Walker Jr. out for season with torn quad tendon