BALTIMORE — All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin got the news he didn’t want Monday. The patellar tendon in his right knee ruptured Sunday night in the first quarter of the 16-10 loss to the Ravens.
Coach Kevin Stefanski said Conklin, 27, would have surgery. While the typical recovery time would have him back in time for training camp, Stefanski said he couldn’t yet put a timetable on it.
“It’s a serious injury. It’s unfortunate,” left guard Joel Bitonio said on a Zoom interview. “I know he has the right makeup to come back from this, but it’s one of those things where you never want to see a guy seriously hurt.
“We know we play a dangerous game, but that was a tough one. He’s in our thoughts right now. We’re hoping surgery goes well and he can come back from that.”
Conklin was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2020, his first year with the Browns after signing a three-year, $42 million contract as a free agent.
His second year with the team never got going, then ended prematurely. Conklin missed two games in October with a knee injury, then his left elbow dislocated in his Oct. 31 return against the Steelers. He avoided surgery and missed three games on injured reserve before returning Sunday night.
He was injured on the second series.
“You really hate that for anybody, especially Jack, who’s been fighting to come back after his dislocated elbow,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said after the game. “It’s just one of those freak deals. He’s one of our guys, and it’s a really, really unfortunately thing.”
“He’s a selfless guy,” Bitonio said.
Blake Hance replaced Conklin on Sunday, like he did during the stint on IR, but Stefanski didn’t commit to him as the starter going forward. Rookie fourth-round pick James Hudson III and Michael Dunn are options.
Line coach Bill Callahan recently said Hance is a guard who is “surviving” at tackle.
“He’s going to compete and he’s going to fight and he’s going to do everything he can to give us the best opportunity out there,” Bitonio said. “He has experience now. We know we have James and Michael Dunn, guys who could potentially play that position, as well, but Blake has the most experience.”
Conklin’s knee appeared to give out as he pass blocked. After staying down for a while, he tried to limp off the field, but the knee buckled and he needed help to get to the sideline. He was examined in the medical tent and driven by cart to the locker room.
“That hurts to see Jack like that,” defensive end Myles Garrett said. “I see the guy work every day, saw him work in training camp.
“I was part of the group that got him to come here. To see him have to deal with all these injuries, knowing what he’s going through and it’s tough to see, tough to watch and I feel for him.”
The Browns will be without No. 3 tight end Harrison Bryant when they return from the bye Dec. 12 for the rematch vs. the Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium. Bryant suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday.
The Browns use a lot of three-tight end personnel packages because they like Austin Hooper, David Njoku and Bryant, who has played all 12 games with 16 catches for 211 yards and a 13.2 average, including three catches for 50 yards vs. the Ravens.
“Without Harrison, definitely we need to pivot,” Stefanski said. “It remains to be seen exactly which direction we go.”
** Running back Kareem Hunt wasn’t in the game on the final drive because his calf was tight, but Stefanski said he’s fine and didn’t reinjure it. He missed the previous five games with a calf strain.
Hunt played 23 of 60 offensive snaps, and Stefanski said the coaches were intentional about how they used him coming off IR. Hunt carried seven times for 20 yards and didn’t catch a pass on one target.
“Yeah, not good enough,” Stefanski said of the lack of opportunities in the passing game.
GROUND TO A HALT
Stefanski hasn’t lost faith in the run game despite being dominated by the Ravens. The Browns entered leading the league with 156.8 rushing yards a game but rushed 17 times for 40 yards, a 2.4 average. Nick Chubb carried eight times for 16 yards.
“I believe in this run offense. I believe in the players. I believe in the scheme,” Stefanski said. “We were really not very efficient last night.
“Ultimately we did not have enough opportunities to let our run game come through for us. When it was not coming through, we pivoted at times to the pass game.”
Bitonio said the Ravens made things difficult by loading the box and blitzing but the Browns should’ve done better.
“There were yards to be had that we did not get,” he said. “It was definitely tough sledding, but there are things that we can do better.
“It comes down to win your one-one-one matchup more times than you do not. Sometimes there is an extra hat in the box or you have to push it a little farther than you want to and different angles. We have to find a way to execute better, and that goes on the players’ shoulders.”
WORKING HIS WAY BACK
Rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah played 68 of 81 defensive snaps, flying around the field to make a career-high 12 sacks to go with a half-sack. He’s still working his way back from a high ankle sprain that put him on IR.
“It felt good at some moments, and in some moments, I just have to fight through it,” he said.
“He is somebody who when he makes a decision to go, he goes,” Stefanski said. “You see his length and speed show up on the field, which is so important when you are going up against an offensive attack like the Ravens.”
TO THE COVID LIST
Long snapper Charley Hughlett and practice squad fullback Johnny Stanton were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list.
The Browns (6-6) have a bye this week, so they should be available Dec. 12, assuming they’re feeling OK.
Hughlett joined the Browns at the end of the 2014 season and has played every game since the start of 2015. The team doesn’t carry a long snapper on the practice squad.
Stanton has played in four games this year with three rushes for 5 yards and two catches for 7 yards and a touchdown.
Fullback Andy Janovich, who’s on the active roster, was a healthy scratch Sunday night, as the Browns played without a fullback.
The players will have meetings and a workout Tuesday then be off until Monday. The coaches will continue to work during the bye.
** Stefanski said a factor in receiver Rashard Higgins being a healthy scratch was that he doesn’t play much on special teams.
** Ravens coach John Harbaugh improved to 23-4 against the Browns.