John Johnson III returned to practice Thursday and vowed he would be ready to play Sunday against the Bengals.
The veteran safety suffered a neck injury in the second quarter of last week's loss to the Steelers — his first significant stretch of missed snaps since 2019. Johnson said he played a handful of plays after sustaining the injury but was held out for precautionary reasons for the entire second half.
"I felt like I could have finished the game," Johnson said. "It was a safety thing … I feel great right now. I've taken it easy this week but I'm 100 percent fully ready to play this week."
Without Johnson, the Browns relied on second-year safety Grant Delpit in Johnson's usual spot in the back of the defense. With Johnson likely available, defensive coordinator Joe Woods will have the flexibility to deploy Johnson, Delpit and Ronnie Harrison Jr. at the same time against a Cincinnati offense that likes to air it out to its three talented wide receivers.
"They've got a complete offense and a young, gun-slinging quarterback that's put some great stuff on tape," Johnson said. "The offense as a whole is a challenge, one of our toughest challenges up to this date, and it's on the road, so it's going to be tough. That's why we're putting in this work this week and I think we're in a good place right now."
Johnson was among a handful of players to return to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's.
DT Malik Jackson (ankle), WR Jarvis Landry (knee), DT Malik McDowell (illness) and DE Takkarist McKinley (groin) were all back in action. CB Denzel Ward (hamstring) and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin) were limited for a second straight practice after missing last week's game against the Steelers.
Woods said Thursday's practice would be big for Ward.
"He is going to be out [on the field]," Woods said. "He will take some practice reps. I think he is feeling better just from the conversations I had with him. It would be nice to have him."
Check out exclusive photos from the practice fields at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus of the Browns preparing for their Week 9 game against the Cincinnati Bengals
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer laid out the Browns' contingency plans Thursday in the event the Browns were to experience what the Steelers went through last week, when K Chris Boswell suffered a concussion in the second quarter.
Priefer said P Jamie Gillan would take over the kicking duties and QB Case Keenum would work as his holder. Gillan was a kicker for all four of his seasons at Arkansas Pine-Bluff, going 46-of-73, and attempted one field goal in 2020, a miss from 50+ yards.
The Steelers did not have the same kind of luxury because their punter, Pressley Harvin III, did not have any kicking experience in college.
"Jamie kicked off during training camp," Priefer said. "This time of year because it is a long season, he would be fine. He kicked a few into the net. If we needed him to, he would be OK."
Walker On The Spot
Priefer credited LB Anthony Walker with snuffing out the Steelers' fake field goal attempt well before the ball was snapped.
"(LB) Anthony (Walker Jr.) did a great job," Priefer said. "It is an easy check for us any time they motion. I think we are pretty sound. I am not sure why they ran it. We are pretty sound in what we do, and it was a pretty easy check for us. I thought the guys did a great job of reacting to the situation at hand just like we did against the Giants last year when they broke the formation. T
"The Steelers ran a fake three years ago in Denver – not exactly the same thing, but every time we play Pittsburgh, I show that fake. It is just be on high alert because Chris Boswell can throw the ball so we are always alert for stuff like that."