Christian Kirksey is officially done for the year.
The Cleveland Browns starting linebacker opted for season-ending surgery for a a torn pectoral tendon he suffered in the team’s Week 2 victory over the New York Jets.
Kirksey was not only a starter, but also one of the longest-tenured Browns. He was selected in the third round of the 2014 draft and had served as a team captain for the first two games of the season. He finishes the season with 11 tackles.
“Right now, when I am not on the field, I want to just be that voice still and encourage my teammates,” Kirksey told reporters last week. “I do not want to check out and worry about just myself. I still have to worry about my brothers.”
Kirksey posted a photo to Instagram following the surgery.
Rookie Mack Wilson will step in to replace Kirksey and reacted to the news on social media Wednesday.
“I won’t let you down,” he wrote. “Hate when things like this happen to such a great dude/leader on any team. Came to work everyday played hard every snap & was always there for me when I needed him on and off the field. Prayers up big bruh. You’ll most def play through me.”
Wilson was a fifth-round pick 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.
Mack Wilson Confident Stepping Into Starting LB Role
Wilson has been solid in place of Kirksey so far, notching 16 tackles and a pass defense in his first four games. He’s also been in position for a few interceptions but came up just a little short.
“I feel like I have done pretty good, but I could do better,” Wilson told reporters Tuesday. “I know that for a fact. I was kind of upset, even though we won against the Ravens 40-25, I was upset because I feel like I left some plays on the field and I feel like a few plays I let my teammates down by not doing my job.”
But Wilson acknowledged that he is making the jump to the NFL, where the game is much faster than it was at the college level. There will be bumps in the road, but he’s trying to minimize it as much as possible.
“I have had probably a couple plays where I fitted the run the wrong way or I did not do my assignment the right way, but I try to kind of put that play behind me,” Wilson said. “I really did not have as many. I had a few missed fit runs from this past game. They had a great offensive scheme and do a lot of window dressing. I just have to do a better job of cross keying the formations and kind of anticipate some of the things that happen within that play.”
Browns Underdogs in Primetime Against 49ers on Monday Night Football
Wilson and the Browns highly touted defense (22.8 PPG) will get another shot in primetime this week on Monday Night Football. The team heads to the West Coast to take on the undefeated San Francisco 49ers, a game Cleveland is a 3.5-point underdog for.
“I would have made the schedule differently, but they did not ask me when they did it,” head coach Freddie Kitchens joked. “We are very happy for our fans. To play these primetime types games, it is exciting for our fans. We just want to put our best foot forward for that particular week, whatever time the game is.”
The Browns have to lock in the next three weeks with a trio of tough games against San Francisco, Seattle and New England.