BEREA — Jack Conklin’s left arm was facing the wrong way and his season seemed headed for a premature end.
It wasn’t — fortunately for him and the Browns — and the All-Pro right tackle will return to the field Sunday night against the Ravens as the Browns (6-5) begin the make-or-break final six-game stretch of the season.
“I’m pumped to be back out there and ready to get rolling,” Conklin said.
“Jack looked like he has not missed a beat,” coordinator Alex Van Pelt said Friday of the practice week.
That would’ve been hard to imagine when Conklin went down Oct. 31 against the Steelers with what turned out to be a dislocated left elbow. Quarterback Baker Mayfield described the injury as “pretty nasty,” a cart was called immediately and an air cast readied, but Conklin didn’t need either or surgery.
He wasn’t sure exactly how it happened but thought the elbow got kicked as he braced himself as he went to the ground.
“Definitely was worried about it and luckily it wasn’t a season-ending injury or anything like that,” he said. “Never want to get hurt and be out, but happy it was short term and able to get back out here.
“When you’re on the ground and your arm’s facing the opposite direction, it’s a little nerve-wracking.”
He missed only the minimum three games on injured reserve — he and running back Kareem Hunt will be activated from injured reserve Saturday — and will play in a large brace that covers most of his arm. He relies on the right arm more as a right tackle, so that helps, as well.
“I’m used to it. The way they make this stuff now, it’s pretty comfortable,” Conklin said of the brace. “It’s not slowing me down. It’s just there to help protect it. I think I could even play without it if I wanted to, but I want to keep it on, just to keep it safe.”
Conklin, 27, was an All-Pro last season in his first with the Browns after signing a three-year, $42 million deal. He missed two games in October with a knee injury, then the elbow was injured in his return.
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“Kareem looked like his old self. Jack looked like his old self,” coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Excited to get those guys back out there.”
“It just looks like it did when we started the season, which is a good thing,” Van Pelt said. “We like our guys. We are finally getting healthy at the right time of the year.”
As ugly as the injury looked, defensive end Myles Garrett wasn’t surprised to see Conklin return so quickly.
“Nah, the kid’s tough,” he said. “I shouldn’t call him a kid, he’s older than me. But when he was out here with no sleeves on, he had shorts on, he doesn’t care. If there’s not something torn or completely snapped off the bone, he’s coming out here and practicing as hard as he can.”
Conklin and running back Nick Chubb practiced in shorts and short sleeves despite temperatures in the 20s and flurries falling.
“I try to wear the same thing from the first day of camp until the end of the season, and I’m from Michigan, so I’m used to this,” Conklin said.
His ability matches his toughness.
“He’s one of the best right tackles there is,” Garrett said. “He’s very, very good at running the ball, and he’s more than satisfactory pass blocking. I think he has another step he can take, feel like he can be a little bit better. But if I got to go against him in practice, I think I can give him a couple cues or tips.
“Until then, I think he’ll keep on (sharpening) his sword against some of these guys, against some of these rushers that we go against later down the stretch.”
Conklin and the rest of the line will be challenged by a Baltimore defense that gets after the quarterback and will be looking to take down Mayfield.
The Ravens (7-3) rank 20th in the NFL with 22 sacks but are second with 49 quarterback knockdowns and fourth with pressures on 28 percent of the dropbacks. They have the third-highest blitz rate at 34.3 percent.
“They just bring it all,” Conklin said. “They have just about every blitz you can think of and they’re not afraid to throw it at you at any time of the game or any part of the field.
“It’s a lot of practice for us, a lot of taking a look at different looks and it’s a lot to be prepared for.”
Van Pelt said the volume of the Ravens’ pressure package is unique.
“Especially when you get into this point of the season now, you have all of the games under their belts,” he said. “Usually you are looking at 60 pressures or 80 pressures. Now you are looking at 180 pressures.
“They are very good in their pressure packages. Multiple looks and multiple front structures, and they do it with a lot of different bodies down there, too. It takes a lot of time to decipher through all of the looks.”