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News & Notes: Mack Wilson among those volunteering to help on special teams

2nd-year LB, other defensive players want to help group improve

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer promised changes to some of the team's special teams units Thursday in the wake of surrendering a kickoff return for a touchdown in last week's win over the Colts.

Priefer doesn't appear to have any shortage of candidates to help in areas that have not met the standard he expects. Defensive players such as Mack Wilson, Andrew Sendejo, Porter Gustin and more have made it clear they're willing to help if Priefer believes they can make a positive impact.

"We are going to find the right match of guys," Priefer said. "We have talked about it before, we were the No. 1 or No. 2 kickoff team in the National Football League last year, and we do not all of a sudden get bad overnight. There are some things we are doing or personnel we are putting out there that are not good enough, and we are going to make those changes."

Even before Isaiah Rodgers' 101-yard kickoff return Sunday, the Browns were struggling to limit opponents on kickoffs. Entering Sunday's game, Cleveland ranks 30th in the NFL, allowing 34.6 yards per return.

Priefer said Wilson asked to be a part of the kickoff team after the big return.

"Usually, it is when you are playing really well and they want to be part of something special. Guys understand the importance of that. They understand the importance of special teams and field position," Priefer said. "Our kickoff team is our momentum team. We just had a pick-six and the crowd is into it and you are up by 17 points. That is the momentum team. That is what is so disappointing is we let them back in the game. That could have been a completely different outcome. 

"Obviously, we won the game, we won by nine and we did a lot of good things on teams, but you can't give up that play."

As for Wilson, Priefer made no guarantees. The second-year linebacker has seen his playing time on defense gradually increase since he returned Week 3 from a knee injury.

"Our locker room is pretty awesome that way, and I have the support of our coaches and our players," Priefer said. "We just have to get it cleaned up."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers

Injury Updates

Pro Bowl WR Odell Beckham Jr. was sent home from the facility Thursday and did not practice because of an illness. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said the move was made out of precaution.

"With an illness, and with this day and age, you just have to be so careful in this environment," Stefanski said, "so just want to make sure we are being proactive in that regard."

QB Baker Mayfield was limited for a second straight day, but both Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt were encouraged by his progress. The third-year signal-caller took a hard shot in the Browns' win over the Colts and is listed with a chest injury.

Van Pelt said Mayfield threw after Wednesday's practice.

"I think with any injury there is always flexibility and movement and then there is a pain element to all of this," Stefanski said. "But he is progressing."

WR Jarvis Landry (hip/ribs), G Wyatt Teller (calf), LB Jacob Phillips (knee), S Karl Joseph (hamstring), S Ronnie Harrison Jr. (concussion) and CB Kevin Johnson (not injury related) also did not participate in Thursday's practice.

Toughness for Days

Mayfield and Landry have continued to prove to their teammates it will take more than a hard hit to put them on the sidelines.

In regards to Mayfield, TE Austin Hooper said he's a "tough son of a gun for sure."

"He sits in there, takes licks every week and handles it like a man," Hooper said. "He is the leader of our offense for a reason. You do not get the respect of other grown men in the locker room without having some toughness to you. I think that is a credit to him and what he is all about."

Landry took a hard hit to his side during the first quarter of Cleveland's win. He was in clear pain the moments afterward and crawled to the sideline.

A few plays later, Landry was back on the field and finished the game with 56 snaps.

"Jarvis is one of the toughest guys on the team, there is no question about that," Van Pelt said. "He was the captain last week for a reason. We did have a tough hard hitting game and he fit right in. He took the shot there on the sideline, missed a few plays and then came back and still did some really really good things in the pass game."

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