Browns Provide Update After Starter Carted Off in Preseason Opener

Kevin Stefanski

Getty Images Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Center Nick Harris was carted off the field in the opening moments of the Cleveland Browns first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a knee injury.

It’s a concerning injury for the Browns, who were relying Harris to fill in for veteran JC Tretter, who was released in the offseason in a cap-saving move. The Browns did not have a significant update on Harris after the game, just saying the former fifth-round pick would undergo an MRI to asses the damage.

Ethan Pocic, who started 40 games over five seasons with the Seahawks on the interior of the line, filled in for Harris.

“I hate to see it for him,” Pocic said of the injury. “It always next-man-up. You just go out there and compete. That’s really what it’s all about.”

The Browns started slow — especially early with Deshaun Watson in the game — but were able to bounce back from a 13-0 deficit, reeling off 24 unanswered points. Browns new QB Deshaun Watson made his much awaited debut but was just 1 for 5 for 7 yards.

Browns Were Excitied About Harris’ Growth

Harris started just a pair of games through the first two seasons — one at right guard — but the Browns were confident enough in him to let go of Tretter, who had started all but one game over his five seasons in Cleveland.

Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan talked about Harris this offseason and lauded the big man’s growth.

“When he came in, and all the college players have a limited base, and then when they get here, they’re blown away at how much they have to do and how much goes on,” Callahan said on August 6 of Harris. “To see him grow, not only physically — because he’s done a great job in the offseason in the weight room — but mentally picking up the system, learning how to communicate calls, hitting players in the right spots.”

It’s the second significant injury for the Browns this week. Cleveland lost return specialist/wide receiver Jakeem Grant during practice to a torn Achilles.

“I really feel awful for Jakeem,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “We’ve witnessed how hard the young man has worked since he got to our team. We all realize injuries are a part of our game but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept especially for someone that works as hard and carries himself like Jakeem.”

Browns Could Reunite With JC Tretter

The Browns could decide to bring back Tretter, as he remains a free agent. It would make a ton of sense, considering his experience with the offense and reliability through his career. Browns insider Mary Kay Cabot said previously the Browns likely would not look into a reunion unless an injury sprung up.

“The only way I see Tretter coming back is if Harris suffers a season-ending injury,” Cabot said. “But Tretter is still one of the best centers in the NFL and should find work somewhere this season. Perhaps his hard-line stance against the offseason program didn’t help him with some teams.”

Outside of the center position, the Browns are well set up for success with one of the best units in the league, which will help whoever comes in to fill the role. Veteran Joel Bitonio and his co-star at guard Wyatt Teller are monsters in the middle, while tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills are the pillars on the outside.

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