BEREA — Rookie tight end David Njoku saw Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs run past untouched, then turned around to see him plant the silver helmet into the right side of quarterback DeShone Kizer’s chest.
Kizer couldn’t get up. Njoku fumed.
“I kind of wanted to fight him on the field, but that’s emotions,” Njoku said Monday, referring to Diggs. “(Kizer’s) one of my close friends and teammate, and I got him hit. So I’ve got to make up for it next week.”
Kizer was in a lot of pain and left the 38-24 loss to the Lions on Sunday. He missed two series before returning late in the fourth quarter. X-rays on his ribs were negative, according to the team, and Njoku said Kizer’s got a big bruise on his chest. He said the ribs are sore, he’ll get treatment and be able to play Sunday against the Jaguars.
Njoku said he considers Kizer a brother and texted him on the bus ride back to Cleveland to check on him.
“It p—– me off, man. I ain’t going to lie to you,” Njoku said. “Seeing him on the ground like that got me mad, and you can’t really fight in the NFL, so I’ve just got to take it out in how I play.”
Njoku said he was mad at himself for blowing the protection — he was watching linebacker Jarrad Davis and let Diggs get by — and for the hit, which wasn’t penalized.
“It’s both obviously,” Njoku said. “You never want to see your quarterback get hit like that in any situation. You gotta give props to the other team. They played really well, smart, too, but someone’s gotta pay. Plain and simple. So we gotta take it out on this next team, that’s how it is.”
Do his comments make him a marked man against the Jaguars?
“I don’t know, I don’t care. We’re going to play some ball, that’s all.”
Kizer was still able to laugh despite the pain, explaining why he’s always worn a flak jacket, which he believes prevented broken ribs Sunday.
“Sometimes I have a little bit of a muffin top and in order to hide it, I think it is better to have that,” he said.
No, but seriously.
“When you are standing back there as big as I am and you have these mean, nasty guys trying to tackle you, it is probably best to cover up as best you can.”
THE KING WEIGHS IN
Cavaliers superstar LeBron James made it clear he wanted the Browns to take Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson with the No. 1 pick when discussing his shot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson for not drafting Dennis Smith Jr., who wound up in Dallas.
“It’s the same if I, I mean, I think Deshaun Watson should be a Brown,” James told reporters Monday before the shootaround at Madison Square Garden. “Doesn’t mean that Myles Garrett isn’t going to be a great football player. But Deshaun Watson should’ve been our quarterback. Doesn’t mean you’re sh—-ing on the next guy. It’s just that you stating what you see.”
The Browns drafted Garrett with the first pick and still had the chance to take Watson at No. 12. Instead, they traded the pick to Houston, which selected Watson.
The Browns took Kizer at No. 52. He was asked about James’ comment.
“That has nothing to do with me,” he said.
Kizer was furious after his failed sneak attempt at the end of the first half and pleaded with referee Carl Cheffers because the Lions, especially defensive tackle Akeem Spence, wouldn’t let the Browns off the pile to run another play before the half ended. Spence held Kizer’s leg well after the play while lying on top of right tackle Shon Coleman, who didn’t get lined up before the clock hit zero.
Former NFL officiating chiefs Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino said on a FOX Sports video they thought the Lions should’ve been flagged for delay of game. The penalty would’ve given the Browns, who were out of timeouts, the chance to run another play.
“The defenders all jumped on (Kizer) and they took their sweet time getting up, and it looked like maybe eight to 10 seconds before the officials were able to put the ball into play,” Blandino said. “It certainly looked like that should have been delay of game there.”
It’s a judgment call, and Cheffers dismissed Kizer’s plea.
“The offensive unit is in a tough spot because that is what defensive teams are taught to do,” coach Hue Jackson said. “I take responsibility for it. I can’t put our guys in that spot. I know a lot of people feel like that is the reason why we lost the game. I do not feel that at all. It was an opportunity to score more points, but it is not the reason we lost the game.
“I know everybody is fuming about it, and I am, too. I am kicking myself many times about it. Our guys responded, and we had our chances. We just have to do more.”
The Jaguars lead the league with 35 sacks, and the Browns may have to face them without both starting tackles. Left tackle Joe Thomas (triceps) is done for the season, and right tackle Shon Coleman left the Lions game with a concussion and was in the league’s protocol Monday.
Rookie Zach Banner (6-foot-8, 360 pounds) replaced Coleman for the final 24 snaps in his first NFL action. He would likely get his first start against the Jaguars if Coleman isn’t cleared in time.
“He battled,” Jackson said of Banner. “There are some things he can do better. He held his own for the most part. If that is what we have to do, that is what we have to do.”
Banner was pleased with his debut.
“It was exciting, nervous a little bit at first,” he said. “No missed assignments and the quarterback didn’t get looked at or touched on my part, but also a lot of technical things that I need to work on — getting my body right, getting the feel and tempo of the game.”
Jackson was impressed with Spencer Drango in his second start at left tackle since Thomas went down.
“Spencer Drango played really well, and I told him that,” Jackson said. “He finished on runs. He finished on pass protection. He battles.”
TWO IS WAY BETTER THAN ONE
Jackson said Kizer should’ve thrown to the back pylon for Njoku on an incompletion in the end zone on the play before the failed sneak. The pass was more to the sideline than the corner, Njoku had to alter his route and got only one foot inbounds with linebacker Tahir Whitehead in close coverage.
Njoku blamed himself.
“I should have caught that with two feet in,” he said. “There’s no excuse for that to happen. I should have got my left foot or left toe down. I didn’t, so I got to make up for it next game.”