BEREA — The Browns finally had their starting defense together and healthy Sunday against the Lions.
It lasted six snaps.
Outside linebacker Jamie Collins will miss the rest of the season with a tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Coach Hue Jackson made the announcement Monday, and it hasn’t been determined if he’ll have surgery.
“That is unfortunate,” Jackson said. “That is a big blow to our defensive football team because he is one of our best players, one of our leaders and one of our really good locker room guys.
“He will grow and get back as soon as he can and be stronger and better for it.”
Collins was injured in the first quarter of the 38-24 loss to the Lions. He intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass as he fell to the ground, got up to run, was tackled by left guard Graham Glasgow and his leg got pinned awkwardly underneath.
The defense had opened the game with a three-and-out and a turnover, holding the Lions to minus-3 yards and setting the stage for a 10-0 lead. Without Collins, it allowed 348 yards and 31 points (a Seth DeValve fumble was returned for a touchdown), including three touchdowns in the final 15:52.
Outside linebacker Christian Kirksey said the fast start was what the defense envisioned for when it was whole. Previously, No. 1 pick Myles Garrett missed five games — four with a high ankle sprain and one with a concussion — cornerback Jason McCourty missed two with an ankle sprain and safety Jabrill Peppers missed two with a toe injury.
“That goes to show you that we have playmakers on the team and playmakers that can make those plays early,” Kirksey said. “It was just unfortunate to have certain injuries happen when everything was going so well, but that’s a part of the game.”
James Burgess, a first-year player who was undrafted in 2016, replaced Collins on Sunday and will take his spot in the starting lineup.
Collins, 27, signed a four-year, $50 million contact extension in the offseason with $26.4 million guaranteed. He joined the Browns at midseason last year in a trade from the New England Patriots, with whom he was a Pro Bowler in 2015 and won a Super Bowl.
He missed three games earlier this season with a concussion. In six starts, he had 31 tackles, a sack, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
“He is a big-time player,” Jackson said. “When he got hurt, he got a pick which led to a touchdown for us. I think he was right on the cusp of making those special plays that we anticipated he would make. We love him as a player. We will miss him.”
Collins is one of three Browns who’ve been to the Pro Bowl. Left tackle Joe Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowler, is out for the season after tearing a triceps tendon Oct. 22. Receiver Josh Gordon, who made the Pro Bowl in 2013, hasn’t played since the end of 2014 because of suspensions.
Collins doesn’t talk much, especially to the media, but was voted a captain.
“He is an ultimate leader,” quarterback DeShone Kizer said. “He leads from a different perspective. He is not a very vocal guy. He is not going to rah, rah with you. He is just going to go out there and grind and show you by example exactly what it takes to be a winner.
“There are not a lot of guys in this locker room who have won the way he has won. I am sure it is going to be a big blow to this defense, but this defense has shown week in and week out that with the multiple injuries that we have gone through this season that we are going to be able to step up in this position.”
Burgess has played in seven games with two starts and missed two last month with a knee injury. At 6-foot, 230 pounds, he’s 3 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than Collins, but he’s made plays in his first NFL experience.
He has 19 tackles, two sacks, three passes defensed and a forced fumble.
“James Burgess has been doing an extremely good job for us,” Kirksey said. “Whenever his number is called, he’s made a play. So he definitely knows what he’s doing. I have complete faith in James and he knows that he has a bigger responsibility now that Jamie’s out, but I think he can take that on and I’m just ready to see him play.”