The Cleveland Browns got more bad injury news when it was announced Thursday that starting linebacker Christian Kirksey may require surgery for a chest injury suffered against the Jets on Monday.
In his absence, rookie fifth-round linebacker Mack Wilson will be called upon to fill in, giving the Browns two rookie starters on the defensive side of the ball. Greedy Williams, the Browns second round pick, is holding down one of the corner spots.
Kirksey has been dealing with the chest injury this week, but it was reported on Thursday that it might require surgery by Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. The news comes just one day after it was reported that tight end David Njoku may require surgery for a wrist injury he suffered in the same game.
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens spoke on the injury when addressing the media.
“Christian, we’re trying to evaluate and see what the best course of action is,” Kitchens said. “We’re talking to other doctors to see what the action is.”
Kirksey was the lowest graded Browns linebacker at 35.9 last week against the Jets, according to Pro Football Focus. He has nine tackles and two assists this season.
Mack Wilson Had a Strong Showing in the Preseason
While Kirksey will be missed — especially in his role as a team captain — but veteran linebacker Joe Schobert said the team has faith in Mack
“He’s the leader in our room, he’s the leader on our defense, he’s a vocal leader, he’s a leader on our team,” Schobert said of Kirksey. “So not having his presence out there is definitely going to be missed. I’ve got a lot of faith in the young guys, what they’ve shown through spring, through training camp up until now.
“It will be a little bit bigger under the lights, but they’ve played at big-time universities and I’m excited to see what they do.”
Wilson came out of Alabama, where he had 113 tackles, seven sacks and six interceptions for the Crimson Tide over his three seasons. Wilson has a huge level of athleticism that helps him excel in coverage, which was evident on a ridiculous pick-six in the preseason.
The interception highlighted his strongest showing of the preseason. He added another interception and was all over the field.
Mack Wilson Motivated to Prove Nick Saban Wrong
Wilson could have returned for one more year with the Crimson Tide, and Alabama skipper Nick Saban advised Wilson against entering the draft. While some saw the athletic Alabama linebacker at a early-round pick, Wilson slid to the fifth round, where the Browns grabbing him with the No. 155 overall pick.
Saban said he advised Wilson to stay with Alabama one more year to build his resume and become a lock for the first or second round.
“That’s just my philosophy,’’ Saban told cleveland.com in June. “People can disagree, but I just think it’s better for our players if they’re not going to be first or second round picks to stay in school, graduate and try and become a first or second round pick. The money kind of goes down pretty quick and I don’t think you have much of an opportunity to make it up.
“I know the argument is you get to see your second contract faster, but if you can make $10 million or $15 million more by staying in school and graduating, that’s a lot of value for your future.”
The Browns linebacker — who took home the Maurice Bassett Award for the most outstanding rookie in camp — respectfully wants to prove his former head coach wrong.
“I’ll be like ‘coach Saban, I know you may feel like I didn’t make the right decision, but I made the right decision for me and my family,'” Wilson said “I definitely want to be able to say that one day. Hopefully after he’s retired.”
Wilson will get his first true shot to do so against the explosive Rams offense on Sunday night in prime time.