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Nick Chubb used one key word to summarize how he's felt the last five weeks: "bored."
For Chubb, those five weeks have been composed of tedious, but important rehab work to recover from a knee injury suffered in Week 4. Chubb has grown tired of watching the Browns from the sidelines or from his television at home, but the anguish from those five weeks on injured reserve ended Monday.
That was when Chubb was designated for return and could resume participating in team practice. The Browns plan to evaluate Chubb throughout the week before making a decision on whether he'll play Sunday against the Houston Texans, but Chubb has cleared all the heavy hurdles necessary in returning to the field.
"I've been bored sitting here these last five weeks," he said Wednesday. "It feels great to be back out there with the team. I'm happy and grateful I'm not having a season-ending injury. It just feels great to run and hang out with the boys again."
The Browns have missed Chubb, too.
After rushing for 150 or more yards in three of the first four games of the season, including 215- and 307-yard totals in Weeks 2 and 4, Cleveland hasn't recorded a game with over 130 rushing yards in the four games after Chubb's injury. The running back room has still produced touchdowns — running back Kareem Hunt has caught two receiving touchdowns in Chubb's absence — but the Browns simply haven't been able to sustain the same success on the ground without Chubb in their backfield.
With Chubb set to return soon, the running game will be back to full strength, and that's bad news for opposing defenses. Despite missing the last four games, Chubb still leads the NFL with six rushes of 20 or more yards this season. His aggressive rushing style and ability to elude tackles helped the Browns to a three-game win streak, which extended to four in Chubb's first game out, and pushed Cleveland's offense to one of the most efficient units in the league.
When Chubb plays well, everyone on the offense benefits, which is why coach Kevin Stefanski was thrilled to see Chubb back at practice Monday.
"He looked like Nick looks," he said Monday. "He was ready to roll out there at practice. 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 knew what kind of work was needed to fully recover from a knee injury before this season. He suffered a gruesome knee dislocation with three ligament tears in 2015 at Georgia, but he returned for a full 2016 season and maintained his status as one of the top NFL running backs in the 2018 class.
So it's worth believing Chubb when he said he isn't worried about any rust that might come from his injury — he said he's felt good through his first two practices this week and feels as though he's back to running at full speed.
"I knew what it felt like the first time I hurt my knee, so I knew it wasn't that severe," he said. "I was able to walk off the field, and I didn't really feel anything. I didn't really feel any pain at all in my knee. It was a little loose, but other than that, it's always felt good. That gave me comfort from the beginning that I know I'll be able to come back and play."
Chubb feels even more excitement to rejoin the Browns and rush for a team in the race for a playoff spot. That's Cleveland's ultimate goal upon conclusion of the regular season, and while he's taking things one week at a time like the rest of his teammates, he's well aware of the work that lies ahead if the Browns want to accomplish that goal.
His presence will be needed for the Browns to have their best shot. The wait — and boredom associated with it — is over for Chubb, and more big runs are coming soon.
"We have other things still ahead of us and have everything still available for us," Chubb said. "All we can do is get better. We had a good bye week, a good couple of days. I think we are ready to get out and grind on the field. I'm here, and I'm ready to play."