Kareem Hunt took one big step toward a potential return Monday when he returned to practice Friday.
It marked the first time Hunt has practiced since he suffered an ankle injury in Cleveland's Week 14 win over the Ravens. Hunt, who also spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list during his absence, was listed as a limited participant.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Thursday he was not ready to rule out any players for Monday's game in Pittsburgh. CB Troy Hill (knee) and S John Johnson III (hamstring) are the only two Browns players who have not practiced at all so far this week.
Hunt has missed seven games this season because of injuries. When he's played, the Browns offense has been better for it, as he poses just as much of a threat on the ground as he does in the passing game.
"I want to see how he looks throughout the week," Stefanski said Thursday. "If we can get him back, I think that would be a big boost to our team. He is a great, great competitor so we are hoping that he can make it back."
Check out exclusive photos from the practice fields at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus of the Browns preparing for their Week 17 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers
Clowney Happy To Be Back
By the time Jadeveon Clowney was officially placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Pro Bowl DE had been laid up for multiple days.
Clowney said he was hit hard by the virus, particularly in the first couple of days. He ultimately missed two games after landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list a day before the Browns' Week 15 loss to the Raiders.
"I could not hardly hold my head up. I was telling the trainers, 'Man, there is something wrong with me. I do not know what is wrong.' I was testing negative, and then the third day, I came in and tested again, and that is when I tested positive," Clowney said. "My head was just hurting so bad. I had never felt anything like it."
Clowney's back in the fold, feeling better and is ready to pick up where he left off.
The veteran pass rusher was playing some of the best football of his career before coming down with COVID-19. His bone-crushing sack of Ravens QB Tyler Huntley was one of the top highlights from Cleveland's game-winning defensive stand against the Ravens.
Clowney is second on the team with five sacks, but his production has gone well beyond the stat sheet. The Browns are a better defense when he's on the field, and he's ready to play a big role in Monday's must-win game against the Steelers.
"I believe in our defense," Clowney said. "I think we have one of the best defenses in the league. We play well together. A great unit. We fly around. We just have to keep getting turnovers. That is what it is about in this league is getting the ball to the offense as much as possible and hope good things happen."
Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said he was confident in K Chase McLaughlin, who returned to the team Thursday after spending time on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
McLaughlin, who missed last week's game against the Packers, "hit the ball really well" at Thursday's practice and would go through another kicking session Saturday, Priefer said.
"He hit the kickoffs well," Priefer said. "That is what we worry about when you come off of an illness like that or any illness – you worry about the leg strength, the stamina and all of that stuff – but he hit the kickoffs very well yesterday. We had a side field goal session that he hit the ball really well so I am very confident in Chase."
McLaughlin has struggled in recent weeks after a hot start to the season. He's 15-of-21 on field goals and 62-of-64 on extra points. Without him against the Packers, the Browns utilized Chris Naggar, who missed an early extra point before making a short field goal. Naggar was released Thursday, one day after the Browns added Chris Blewitt to the practice squad.
"(Blewitt) came in in March and worked out for us. He did a real nice job so he has always been on our emergency list," Priefer said. "I know he kicked for Washington earlier this year. We felt like he was the best emergency option going forward."