Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton doesn’t know exactly when outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo will return from a bruised lung, but he’s optimistic the team’s top draft pick will still be able to have a productive rookie season.
Mingo was released from the Cleveland Clinic’s main campus Saturday morning after a two-night stay because of the unusual injury he suffered Thursday in the second preseason game against the Detroit Lions. Horton visited with Mingo while the native of West Monroe, La., ate gumbo for lunch at the team’s headquarters shortly after he got out of the hospital.
“He looks great,” Horton said. “As far as projection, the doctors will make that decision and we just want him to get healthy, and we're just glad that everything's OK. The projection will be whenever his body says it's ready to go.
“He’s going to miss some time. We’re just happy it’s not a career- or season-ending injury. They’re all bad when they miss playing time. I can’t specifically say I’ve seen that [injury before].”
Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard are the starting outside linebackers, but the Browns are counting on Mingo to become a key rotational player and an important part of their pass rush in Horton’s 3-4, multi-front, attacking scheme.
“It doesn't matter who the starters are,” Horton said. “Just give me 11 guys that want to go out and play and can play, and he is one of our 11. So will it hurt our team? Yeah, it will hurt our team because of our depth. But we'll get him back soon and plug him right back in.”
Exactly how soon remains unclear. During a conference call Friday, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said it’s too early to establish a timeline for Mingo’s return.
Mingo is expected to miss at least a week or two as his lung heals, a league source told the Beacon Journal, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation. He’ll sit out the Browns’ “dress rehearsal” Aug. 24 at the Indianapolis Colts and possibly their Aug. 29 preseason finale at the Chicago Bears. The Browns open the regular season Sept. 8 at home against the Miami Dolphins.
Horton conceded missing part of the preseason would be a setback for Mingo’s development, but it’s not a major concern, either.
“For a young guy, he needs every rep he can get,” Horton said. “He's smart. He's on page. He's very smart. So for us, it's just reps. It's just seeing a different look. It's seeing [Colts quarterback] Andrew Luck. It's seeing different fronts and how they want to block him. So it will retard a little bit, but he's pretty gifted in what he does, and he picks things up fast. So how much? I can't give you a quantitative answer, but it'll hurt him a little bit.”
Horton said Mingo thinks he suffered the injury on the opening kickoff against the Lions.
“It didn't happen on defense,” Horton said. “It happened somewhere else. He didn't play any defensive snaps. He thinks it happened on the first play. I don't think anybody knows.”
Horton doesn’t have a problem with using a first-round pick on special teams. Critics of the strategy argue that Mingo would have avoided the bruised lung had he not played special teams.
“I think you put your best 11 players on the field at any one time to give you the best opportunity to win,” Horton said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s your quarterback holding for extra points or your running back or wide receiver. You’re trying to win and evaluate people, and the sad part of this business is people will get hurt because it’s a physical game, and that’s part of the process and part of the depth. And he’ll be back. It’s just like if he had a stinger or something else. The philosophy is do what you do to win the game, and that’s the most important thing.”
The final play in which Mingo participated was Travis Benjamin’s 84-yard punt return for a touchdown that was wiped out by Joe Haden’s holding penalty with 1:09 left in the first quarter. Chudzinski said medical personnel began examining Mingo because he was out of breath.
Mingo ran to the locker room early in the second quarter. He was taken to the hospital before the end of the game and spent the night there Thursday and Friday.
Now the Browns are happy Mingo has been released, and they’ll be relieved if he can bounce back and put this recent scare behind him.