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Nick Chubb ‘where I need to be’ in recovery from knee surgery but doesn’t give timetable for return

BEREA — Nick Chubb described the two weeks after his latest gruesome knee injury as “blurry.” He was down emotionally for much longer, asking “why again?” He didn’t start to turn a corner mentally until a couple of months ago when he was able to start running on land.

In the midst of the trauma, Chubb found comfort in the familiarity of rehabbing the left knee. He took solace in the support of family, friends, fans and players across the league. He derived inspiration from seeing the Browns make the playoffs.

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“I want to get out there and help and I want to be a part of this team,” Chubb said Wednesday. “It definitely motivates me to get back.”

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Chubb, 28, isn’t putting a timetable on his return to the field but expressed optimism during his first interview since the season-ending injury Sept. 18 in Pittsburgh.

“I like where I’m at,” the Pro Bowl running back said after an organized team activities practice. “I’m where I need to be. I would say that the biggest thing for me is getting better every day.”

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Chubb started running on land in April and said that continues. He won’t practice until training camp at the earliest and could miss the start of the season in September.

“Just right now I’m trying to get stronger,” he said. “I’m not looking too far ahead. I’m just taking it day by day. I have to get better today on Wednesday.”

The Week 2 injury on a Monday night in Pittsburgh was eerily similar to the one he suffered while at the University of Georgia in 2015, when the left knee dislocated and the posterior cruciate, lateral collateral and medial collateral ligaments tore. He rebounded to be the No. 35 pick of the Browns in 2018, missed only seven games in his first five NFL seasons and has been a four-time Pro Bowler with 6,511 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns.

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When Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s direct shot to the knee happened with Chubb’s foot in the ground last year, the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments tore and the medial capsule and meniscus were damaged. He needed two surgeries, with the second to repair the ACL coming in November.

Fitzpatrick received criticism for the hit, but Chubb didn’t agree.

“I don’t think it’s a dirty hit at all,” he said. “I’m not blaming him. It’s part of the game.”

He was asked his confidence level that he can be the same dominant player again.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I’ve been through it before, but my whole goal is to get back out there.”

After asking “why again?” after the same knee was wrecked, Chubb gained acceptance.

“That’s part of my story,” he said.

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With multiple scars visible on the knee, he’s even found the previous experience helpful.

“Just knowing how to attack it mentally and knowing I might not be at a certain point through the rehab process that I want to be, but I know taking it day by day and the weeks add up and the months add up and eventually I’ll get to where I want to be,” he said.

Chubb said it never crossed his mind he wouldn’t be able to recover, and that was enforced when he began running.

“I started kind of getting my mind back on I’m going to be able to play football again,” he said.

From general manager Andrew Berry to the coaches to his teammates, the organization has expressed admiration for Chubb’s commitment to the rehabilitation. He continues to work in the team facility daily, estimating the routine starts at 7 a.m. and he leaves at 3 p.m.

“Everybody wants to know when he’s going to do this, when’s he going to do that?” coach Kevin Stefanski said. “I know this: He is working like crazy and I get to witness it in our building. I get to see him in our meetings. He’s a huge, huge part of our program. He’s a huge part of what we do.”

The team dedicated last season to Chubb, often wearing his Georgia and Browns jerseys.

“It was special,” he said. “I was down mentally for a while. Just when you get hurt, it’s one thing. But when you get hurt again and you already know what you’ve got to go through and the entire process, surgery, rehab, it’s a nonstop battle every day, so my team did a great job just being there for me. I was around the building for them and they did a great job, made the playoffs, had a great run.”

One of the signature moments was Chubb walking onto the field and smashing the guitar before the playoff-clinching win over the Jets in December.

“It meant a lot,” he said. “I did my part, and the guys did the rest.”

Chubb watched practice the last two days.

“I haven’t played football since last September, so just to be around, just to see the plays, get my mind back on football, I think it’s important for me just as a football player to be around football more,” he said.

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The Browns and Chubb agreed to a contract restructuring in April. He was due to make $11.75 million in salary this season, the last of a three-year, $36.6 million contract. The team will save about $9.5 million on the cap, while Chubb will have the chance to earn back the drop in salary through incentives.

“Definitely a blessing,” he said. “They could have cut me dry and left me hanging. But they did a great job. I want be here, and they know that. So we came to a great point.”

He credited the team’s medical, strength and conditioning and athletic training staffs, particularly assistant athletic trainer Pat Rock and assistant strength and conditioning coach Dale Jones.

“They’ve done a great job of keeping me not so frustrated,” Chubb said. “We have a great plan. I’m sticking to it. I’m doing whatever they tell me to do. I have trust in them to get me back.”

He knows some people doubt he’ll be able to return to the player he was — “I see everything,” he said — and uses that as motivation, but his focus is on getting better. He’s more grateful than ever to have an NFL career.

“It’s a blessing to play this game and you can’t take it for granted because (in) one play (it) can be all taken away,” he said. “And I’m just blessed to have so much support around Cleveland, the fans, my friends, family, just to keep me uplifted and keep me going.”

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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