Jacob Phillips didn't realize how much strength he lost from a biceps injury he suffered in training camp last year until he picked up a dumbbell.
Phillips, who played in only four games toward the end of the season because of the injury, could only curl 25 pounds once he was able to lift again. He knew he had lost strength, but the inability to curl anything heavier put into perspective just how much strength he had lost — and how much work was needed for him to become as strong as he once was.
"I stayed here after the season for about a month and a half and just tried to add as much muscle and smart muscle onto my body that I could," Phillips said Wednesday.
Now, Phillips' strength is back, and he's making his case to earn a bigger role at linebacker as he enters his third NFL season.
The Browns drafted Phillips in the third round in 2020 with the belief that his speed would eventually help him blossom into a consistent linebacker. He was on track to make that type of jump last year until his injury, and he's hungry to prove he can take the leap this year now that he's regained his strength.
Phillips has slotted as a MIKE (middle) linebacker to begin camp. Anthony Walker Jr. started at the position last year but has been on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list and has yet to practice in camp. Phillips has embraced the first-team opportunities and was rather blunt in expressing what it would mean to stick at the position to begin the season.
"Being a MIKE linebacker is something I've done my whole life," Phillips said. "It's the one job in the world I'd rather be doing than anything else. It's something I've prepared for, and I'm trained and ready for the moment."
Linebackers coach Jason Tarver said Phillips has earned those reps because of the work he put in this offseason toward not only re-gaining his strength, but coming back even stronger than he was before.
"We've been really proud of Jacob because of how he's built his body," Tarver said. "He has gained weight, and he's extremely powerful right now and extremely fast. He's learned how he's needed to stretch, and he's always in doing extra whatever it is — stretching, the regeneration stuff we do, being first. Every thought is 'I have to get my body right so I can perform one day at a time.'"
Phillips is giddy to show the Browns what he can do now that he's a stronger, experienced and, most importantly, healthy player in his third NFL season.
"This is a very big year for me," he said. "I'm just really trying to gear myself up to have a healthy season. I know when I am healthy and I am on the field that everything is going to fall into place, and I'm going to be able to show everybody in Cleveland the player I am."
Here's what else you might have missed from Day 7 in Berea:
Check out photos of players and coaches working throughout camp