Kevin Stefanski enjoyed the familiar sight he saw at Monday's practice, the Browns' first after the bye weekend.
There he was, Nick Chubb, back with his teammates after missing more than a month because of a knee injury. There was Chubb taking carries, catching passes out of the backfield and looking like the same player who has been one of the NFL's best running backs since he entered the league in 2018.
It was a first practice, and there are three more to go before a decision is made about Chubb's status for Sunday's game against the Texans, but it was a good first step.
"He was fresh legs out there. He looked like Nick looked. He was ready to roll out there at practice," Stefanski said. "Obviously, he is chomping at the bit. He has done everything in this rehab that has been asked of him. As you can imagine he has attacked it."
Chubb was designated to return from injured reserve shortly before the practice. He doesn't necessarily have to be activated for Sunday's game — teams get three weeks before they're forced to make a decision — but the move gives the Browns plenty of time to decide if Chubb is ready to return to action after missing the past four games.
"We will see how the week unfolds here," Stefanski said.
Chubb recorded 335 rushing yards and four touchdowns before going down with a knee injury early in the second quarter of the Browns' Week 4 win over the Cowboys. Despite missing the past four games, Chubb leads the NFL this season with six rushes of 20-plus yards.
In the games since Chubb's injury, the Browns' once-dominant rushing attack has struggled a bit. After averaging more than 200 rushing yards per game through the first four games, the Browns have averaged a little more than 95 per game over the past four.
The Browns' 53 man roster as of December 18, 2020.
Teller Returns, Too
Monday's return of road-grading offensive guard Wyatt Teller could serve as another big boost for Cleveland's running game. Teller was back on the field after missing the past three games with a calf injury.
Teller did not go on injured reserve for his injury, which occurred early in the action of the Browns' Week 5 victory over the Colts.
"We will see how this unfolds this week, but you are talking about two good football players," Stefanski said. "If we are able to get them back, I think that will give a boost to our team."
Stefanski said QB Baker Mayfield, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Sunday, participated in all of the team's virtual meetings Monday and would break down the practice with coaches in the hours following it.
"Anytime you are not out there, you wish you had all of your guys out there to get the reps – that is just natural," Stefanski said. "But we will make sure we bring him up to speed as soon as he is back in the building."
The Browns were informed Saturday morning a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing was conducted and close contacts were immediately self-isolated. The Browns are currently in the NFL-NFLPA's intensive protocols.
TE Austin Hooper said Monday he "feels great," a little more than two weeks since he underwent an emergency appendectomy.
The Pro Bowl tight end missed the past two games because of the unexpected setback. Stefanski said he expects Hooper to play Sunday, and Hooper made as much clear after a productive day in Berea.
Hooper said he heard from former Browns C Alex Mack, a teammate of his in Atlanta who experienced a similar situation early in his career.
"We are talking, and he is like, 'I came back pretty quick, but I also do not get tackled in the internal organ area, either, so you might be out a little longer than I was,'" Hooper said. "He said the same thing – just super random, was getting in and getting ready to go to work just like me and then you are headed to the ER for something completely out of your control.
"Definitely happy and grateful to be back here with my teammates on the field."