The Cleveland Browns will be without starting tight end Austin Hooper against the Bengals on Sunday after he had surgery for appendicitis.
Hooper was listed as out with an illness on the latest injury report before head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed it was for the appendix surgery. Hooper could miss next week’s game against the Raiders as well, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Luckily the Browns have somewhat of a surplus of talented tight ends with David Njoku and rookie Harrison Bryant waiting in the wings. It will likely mean Stephen Carlson will be on the active roster as well against the Bengals.
Hooper signed with the Browns this offseason for what was the richest tight end deal in the league at the time for his four years, $42M million.
Hooper caught 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns to land his second consecutive Pro Bowl invitation last season. Hopper has caught 22 balls for 205 yards and one touchdown, recording five receptions in each of the last three games.
David Njoku Has Chance to Prove Himself
With Hooper out it will lead to more opportunities for former starting tight end David Njoku, who has plummeted to third on the depth chart and asked for a trade before the deadline on Nov. 3. The reason for his trade request was mostly so he could get on the field more and showcase his abilities as a pass-catcher.
Last week Njoku out-snapped Bryant 23-21 during the loss to the Steelers last week. Njoku caught just one pass for six yards on a day where the offense struggled as a whole.
Njoku has five catches for 63 yards and one touchdown this year. He suffered a knee injury in the Browns opener and landed on the IR, but has played the last two weeks.
Njoku — the 29th overall pick in the 2017 draft — is a physical specimen at 6-foot-4, 246 pounds with 4.6 40-yard dash speed. In his second season, Njoku essentially doubled his production from his rookie year, collecting 56 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns. But Njoku saw his career go off the fails last season with a broken wrist and a bad relationship with the coaching staff. He had just five catches for 41 yards and one touchdown in Year 3 and was a healthy scratch down as the season winded down.
That being said, the Browns showed faith in Njoku this offseason, executing his fifth-year option this offseason, meaning he’s under contract for this season and the next.
David Njoku Disputes Report of Trade
Njoku disputed the report from cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot that he is asking for a trade before the deadline.
“I did not say anything to Mary Kay about a trade request,” Njoku wrote on Twitter.
Cabot followed up on her report saying: “Not disgruntled, no animosity, no demands. Just wants to play. Market might not be there [though].”
The Browns former first-round pick had demanded a trade in the offseason, but later retracted it, saying he was “all in” and ready to get to work under Stefanski. It’s unsure what kind of market would be there for Njoku, but with Hooper out, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.