The Tasmanian devil of the offense and the speed demon of the defense will be stopped for the next several weeks.
Running back Kareem Hunt’s calf injury is “significant” and expected to sideline him for at least a month. Rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is also expected to land on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. A player must miss a minimum of three games when placed on IR.
Both were injured Sunday in the fourth quarter of the 37-14 loss to the Cardinals.
Hunt couldn’t put weight on his right leg and was driven by cart into the locker room. Coach Kevin Stefanski on Monday called the injury “significant” and said the recovery time is expected to be in the “ballpark” of four-to-six weeks.
Starting running back Nick Chubb missed the Cardinals game with a calf injury, leaving Hunt as the workhorse. Stefanski said Chubb’s progressing and didn’t rule him out for Thursday night’s game against the Broncos at FirstEnergy Stadium.
D’Ernest Johnson and rookie Demetric Felton are next in line in the backfield.
Stefanski didn’t yet know the status for a slew of other injured players, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, who reinjured his left shoulder Sunday. Mayfield said after the game he’d be able to continue playing through the injury despite another dislocation and his left arm being in a sling.
Hunt is a favorite among teammates for his talkative, upbeat personality, as well as a ferocious running style. He rarely goes down on first contact and fights for every yard.
Left guard Joel Bitonio was in disbelief when he saw Hunt injured.
“When he finally limped off or got carried off, I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Bitonio said. “The guy does take a beating the way he runs the ball, but you expect those guys to get up. It’s just football, man. It stinks, and sometimes you’re just a little bit unlucky out there.
“He just wants to win so bad. I really do feel like he represents how the Cleveland Browns want to play football, and to see him go down like that is just unfortunate. It’s another big loss and hopefully he can come back and we can steady the ship without him.”
Hunt’s impact is felt throughout the team.
“I just saw him during the week trying to do everything he could to get ready for this game,” safety John Johnson III said of Hunt fighting through wrist and knee injuries last week. “He probably could have sat out or probably should have sat out. He was kind of banged up coming into the game, but he’s a warrior. He went out there and gave us everything he has.
“So it’s definitely a big hit for us, but we’re just thankful for everything that he did. He does exemplify what the Browns is — tough, physical, relentless — so I just hope he gets healthy soon.”
Owusu-Koramoah, a second-round pick out of Notre Dame, was playing well to start his career, taking over as the every-down linebacker the last two games. His absence will mean more playing time for Anthony Walker Jr. and possibly Mack Wilson or Malcolm Smith, who was inactive Sunday with an abdomen injury.
“Obviously I hate to see that for him,” Walker said. “Obviously he’s starting to come into his own, definitely flying around, making plays all over the field. But I know he’s a true professional, so he’ll take this time and stay in his playbook and get all the recovery and rest that he needs so that when he does get back, he’ll be 100 percent. So I have no worries about that.
“Obviously you miss him on the field, just his presence, the plays that he makes and everything like that, but we’ve got to have guys step up.”
Stefanski was asked if he’d consider sitting Mayfield on Thursday night to let the non-throwing shoulder heal some. He said he’d listen to the medical staff and Mayfield.
“We’ll make sure to work through all that in the next couple days and obviously take what the medical staff says, what Baker says, and we do that for all of our players,” Stefanski said. “That’s making sure we make prudent decisions with all these guys.”
He said he’d have a better sense Tuesday whether Mayfield could practice or he’d give veteran backup Case Keenum repetitions to get him ready.
“I don’t know is the truth,” Stefanski said. “I have to see how Baker and all these guys respond over the next 24 hours.”
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is included in that group. He injured his right shoulder Sunday in the second quarter but returned for the second half.
Receiver Jarvis Landry (knee) has missed the last four games, left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle) the last two and right tackle Jack Conklin (knee) Sunday. Their status for Thursday is also undetermined.
“This thing comes at you quick. We are going to make sure we turn the page with the players as they come in this afternoon and we get started on the Denver Broncos team,” Stefanski said.
“The one positive about getting your butt kicked when you have a Thursday game is you play pretty quickly,” Bitonio said. “I’m excited to get back out there. I know it’s going to be tough, we don’t have everybody, but I know the guys who are going to be out there are going to be ready to play.”