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Notes: Sione Takitaki loves Cleveland, wants to stay, plans to be ready for start of season after ACL surgery

BEREA — Linebacker Sione Takitaki had a breakthrough season before his anterior cruciate ligament tore Dec. 4 covering a punt in Houston. He’s scheduled to be a free agent in March but wants to stay put.

“I’ve already voiced my opinion,” he said Monday as players cleaned out their lockers following the season finale Sunday. “I love Cleveland. I told them I want to be back, so we’ll see what the future holds.”

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Takitaki was a third-round pick out of BYU in 2019 and is in the last year of his rookie contract. He spent most of his time with the Browns as the strong-side linebacker who specialized in stopping the run but excelled in a larger role this season after injuries hit the position, including starting at middle linebacker.


In 12 games, he had 71 tackles, four for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. He had successful surgery Dec. 14, was on crutches Monday and said the full recovery is expected to take 10 months from the surgery.

“I know I can be ready for the season,” he said. “That’s a lot of time and the way I operate, the way I can get healthy, I’m confident.”

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The timing of the injury — four months before free agency — was lousy.

“I feel like I have enough tape to end up landing on my feet eventually, so I’m not really worried,” Takitaki said. “Obviously it sucks. Could have definitely got hooked up in the next contract, but I’m excited. I still got a lot of tape and I bring a lot to the table and I’m just excited.”

He said he’d never been injured and wasn’t sure how to process the ACL tear.

“This is not normal,” he said of his reaction. “And then I was bummed, definitely bummed, but this is the situation and now recovery process. Excited for the future.”

Coaches and players raved about him before and after the injury, and he was missed on the field and in the locker room.

“It means a lot, man,” he said. “I love this team. Love all the coaches, my teammates, everybody that I’ve been in contact with.”

Takitaki was the third of four linebackers to go down with season-ending injuries. Anthony Walker Jr. (quadriceps tendon) and Jacob Phillips (pectora) preceded him, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (foot) followed.

Walker is also scheduled to be a free agent. He was voted a captain, and his ability and leadership were missed after he went down in Week 3.

“I love to be here, I love Cleveland,” he said. “I hate packing up and moving. That’s one of my pet peeves. But it’ll be exciting if I’m able to be back here.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business, though. I know, I understand that.”


General manager Andrew Berry chased defensive end Jadeveon Clowney until he finally agreed to join the Browns as a free agent in 2021. He re-signed last offseason on a one-year deal but was sent home from practice Friday and not allowed to travel to the finale after public comments criticizing how the coaches used him and end Myles Garrett this year. He’s not expected to return.

“Obviously disappointed in terms of everything surrounding that situation,” Berry said. “Having a partner with Myles is certainly something that we’ve had for the past three years. That’s certainly a position group that we do value and will continue to value.”

Quarterback Deshaun Watson played with Clowney with the Texans, and Clowney cited Watson as a primary reason he returned to Cleveland for 2022.

“He is a great, great teammate, great friend, everything,” Watson said Monday. “We have a great relationship. If he’s back here, then we would love to have him, and if he’s not, wherever he lands, he’s going to be great for that organization and that team.”


The Titans requested permission to talk to Browns assistant general manager/vice president of player personnel Glenn Cook for their vacant general manager job. The Titans fired Jon Robinson last month.

Cook joined the Browns in 2016 as assistant director of scouting. Last offseason he interviewed with the Vikings and Bears for GM jobs, with Minnesota’s going to then-Browns VP of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The Bears hired Ryan Poles.

The Browns promoted Cook to his current roles after the process.


Watson has settled 23 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and misconduct but two remain open, with one scheduled for trial during the offseason.

“I’m approaching it every day just with a smile on my face and just being able to let my attorneys and my lawyers deal with that situation,” he said. “I gotta focus on moving forward with my career and my life and just let my attorneys handle that situation. So right now I can’t really speak on, I don’t know how that’s going to go.”


Cornerback Greg Newsome II expected to join the ranks of the elite in his second season. The jump was postponed as he adjusted to being the full-time slot corner in the nickel package in addition to his starting role on the outside.

“Honestly just playing a new position was challenging at the beginning, but I think I did a really good job just getting comfortable out there, and just going into next season, just hoping I take that next step,” he said. “I was looking forward to doing that this season, but obviously things happen and you’re kind of put into different situations so I have to do that mentally. But next season just really solidifying myself in the league as that guy is definitely what I’m looking forward to next season.”

Newsome, the No. 26 pick in 2021, is still looking for his first NFL interception. He had 42 tackles, six passes defensed and a half-sack in 15 games this year.


Safety John Johnson III said an MRI showed the knee injury suffered in the fourth quarter Sunday is a minor medial collateral ligament sprain and won’t need surgery.

** Ten players from the practice squad were signed to reserve/futures contracts and will remain with the team in the offseason: receivers Daylen Baldwin, Mike Harley and Marquez Stevenson, safety Bubba Bolden, linebacker Storey Jackson, defensive end Sam Kamara, running back John Kelly Jr., tight end Zaire Mitchell-Paden, defensive tackle Roderick Perry II and tackle Tyrone Wheatley.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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