Browns LB Anthony Walker Jr. is making progress entering the season after playing three games last season due to a season-ending quad injury suffered in Week 3.
The six-year veteran led the Browns in tackles in 2021, with 113 tackles in 13 games, and has been one of the core pieces of the defense since he arrived in Cleveland that year. His on-field production was difficult to replace, and so, too, was his elite leadership abilities.
"I think every day has been better for me out there on the field," Walker said. "You can't recreate football by doing rehab or by doing just training on the side. So I think for me the last bit is actually getting out there and doing individual drills and then progressing to seven-on-seven, progressing to team period.
Check out photos of the team during the third day of Training Camp
"I think I'm taking steps in the right direction. Still got weeks away until we play a regular season game, but just making good progression and moving at the pace that the train is going to move."
Walker experienced his first major injury in his football career when he suffered the quad injury against the Steelers. That led to him missing the remaining 14 games, which was a painful period for Walker as he watched his teammates play without him while he dealt with the uncertainty of his recovery.
"For me, I didn't think I would be able to ride a bike again after I had surgery," Walker said. "My first time having something like that, it was scary. I'm not going to lie to you. You can't do anything. I've been playing football and walking around normal for 20-some odd years, and then one day you wake up and you need help to do everything.
"So taking it one day at a time, every step has been a blessing. Riding a bike again to walking normal without crutches and then running and all that stuff. I don't take any of that for granted."
Walker was still a voice in the locker room even as he attacked his recovery, which was something all his teammates noticed — and certainly caught the eye of head coach Kevin Stefanski, too.
"(His) intangibles are hard to describe, obviously, but his presence is felt really throughout the building, meeting rooms, weight room, on the field," he said. "He's a pros pro, and just with his career and what he's been able to accomplish and plays at a high level and then provides great leadership off the field."
With a full return in his near future, Walker plans to embrace it with a newfound appreciation for playing in the NFL.
"Watching football for what, 14 weeks last year, watching your teammates go through offseason workouts and all that and not being able to be a full participant, it sucks," Walker said. "You play the game for the camaraderie, for the brotherhood, and to be able to go to work with your brothers and not being able to do everything fully, it definitely sucks. But it's timing and progression and I don't want to rush the process, but obviously you hope it speeds up a little bit."