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Notes: Grant Delpit practices after being designated to return from IR

BEREA — The defense could get a shot in the arm just in time for the start of the playoffs.

Safety Grant Delpit was designated to return from injured reserve Wednesday morning and practiced in a limited role. The Browns play in Houston on Saturday afternoon in the wild card round.

Delpit, who was voted a Pro Bowl alternate for the first time this year, was injured Dec. 10 in the fourth quarter of a win over the Jaguars. He was hurt as he leaped on a blitz, reaching for the leg before he hit the ground.

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He had groin surgery and was placed on IR, which requires a minimum four-game stay. He’s missed four games.

The Browns have the choice of activating him for the Texans game.

“It would be great for this defense, another vocal leader,” cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. said. “One of our leaders on this defense, just come in, make plays and just bring guys along and just bring that energy. That would be big for us, even if he just comes in and gets a couple snaps.”

Delpit, a second-round pick in 2020, started the first 13 games and led the team with 77 tackles, adding 1.5 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. He signed a three-year, $36 million contract extension the day after the injury.

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“It’s a good first step for him,” coordinator Jim Schwartz said before practice. “He’s been working extremely hard. I mean, you talk about a driven dude. He’s been really driven to get back. We’ll see where it goes.”

INJURY REPORT

Defensive end Myles Garrett (personal/hamstring/shoulder), cornerback Greg Newsome II (knee), safety Juan Thornhill (calf), left guard Joel Bitonio (rest/oblique/knee), tight end David Njoku (rest/knee) and running backs Pierre Strong Jr. (back) and Kareem Hunt (groin) returned to practice and were limited.

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** Kicker Dustin Hopkins (hamstring) and receivers Amari Cooper (rest/heel) and Cedric Tillman (concussion) again didn’t practice.

** For the Texans, defensive ends Will Anderson Jr. (ankle), Jonathan Greenard (ankle) and Jerry Hughes (ankle) remained out, along with receiver Noah Brown (back).

Receiver Robert Woods (hip) and defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins (shoulder) and Maliek Collins (hip) were limited after sitting out Tuesday.

STRONG PRAISE

In addition to Delpit being out, Thornhill missed three recent games and Rodney McLeod was lost for the season with a torn biceps. Undrafted rookie Ronnie Hickman stepped in, starting four games.

“Ronnie really became the glue of our secondary and communicated as good, if not better, than any rookie safety I’ve been around and he’s made plays,” Schwartz said.

Hickman returned his first interception for a touchdown vs. the Jets.

A NEW NO. 2

Quarterback Jeff Driskel did enough in the finale in his Browns debut to become the top backup to Joe Flacco. P.J. Walker, who started two games this year, had been the No. 2 after rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson (hip) went on injured reserve after getting hurt Dec. 24.

Driskel, 30, was signed Dec. 29 off Arizona’s practice squad and played the entire finale Sunday as most of the starters rested. He went 13-for-26 for 166 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 63.9 rating.

“Jeff is our backup moving forward,” coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “Thought he did a good job last week, put in a tough spot, come in and just go after a week of being around. It wasn’t always perfect, but he did some really good things.”

EXTRA POINTS

Garrett and Bitonio were named to the NFL Players Association All-Pro first team. Players vote for their position and the position they directly face.

“It’s a cool honor,” Bitonio said. “It’s just a different way to get guys’ opinions on who’s playing good football. So it’s always cool to be recognized by the guys you go against.”

** Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said it was important for punter Corey Bojorquez to return after missing a game and play in the finale so he could hold for kicker Riley Patterson, who will continue to fill in for Hopkins on Saturday.

** The Browns signed cornerback Kalon Barnes (6-foot, 186 pounds) to the practice squad. He was a seventh-round pick of the Panthers in 2022 and has appeared in two games.

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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