Second-year LB Jacob Phillips was included in the Browns' initial 53-man roster Tuesday, a reaffirmation of the team's hopes he'll be able to return at some point during the 2021 season.
Phillips recently underwent surgery on a torn biceps tendon, an injury he suffered last month during joint practices with the New York Giants. He's already back with the Browns and rehabbing the injury, and Coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday he was optimistic about Phillips' chances of returning this season.
"Hopefully, he attacks this rehab like I know he will and then see where we are as he gets healthy," Stefanski said.
By keeping Phillips on the initial 53-man roster, the Browns gave themselves the ability to place Phillips on injured reserve — a move they made official after Wednesday's practice — and potentially designate him to return later in the year. Players who are placed on injured reserve after 4 p.m. Wednesday are allowed to return to the field after missing at least three games. Players who were placed on injured reserve before that time are ruled out for the season.
Phillips, a 2020 third-round pick out of LSU, was working as the Browns' second-team MIKE linebacker behind Anthony Walker Jr. before suffering his injury. Phillips battled through a couple of injuries as a rookie but finished the season strong, appearing in nine games (three starts) and collected 25 tackles.
New Face in the QB Room
The Browns had a new quarterback working behind Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on Wednesday.
Among the Browns' 11 additions to the practice squad was Nick Mullens, who started 16 games over four seasons with the 49ers. The former undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi spent the 2021 preseason with the Eagles.
Mullens is the first QB to sign with the Browns in any capacity since Kyle Lauletta joined the practice squad midway through the 2020 season. Lauletta was waived Tuesday.
"The thinking is get a quarterback in here and take a look at him," Stefanski said. "He has some prior experience in this system. (Offensive assistant) T.C. McCartney was with him in San Francisco so had some intel on him as a person and a player."
Ten of the Browns' 11 practice squad signees were players who were with the team during training camp.
Twenty-seven players were claimed by teams league-wide on the first day following rosters being reduced to 53 players. The Browns were not involved in this round but had two of their recently waived players — WR KhaDarel Hodge (Lions) and G Colby Gossett (Falcons) — land with new teams.
Stefanski was happy to welcome back a number of familiar faces for Wednesday's practice.
"I got to talk to a bunch of those guys yesterday. You really do want what is best for them. If guys land on another 53, you are happy for them. When they do not, you want them to be here because we know them," Stefanski said. "We feel like we are a big part of their development. I feel like they can get better here. It is great to see a bunch of faces back out here."