Browns starting middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson returned to practice today after suffering a concussion Sunday late in the first half against the New York Giants.
Jackson is a captain and the undisputed leader of the defense. He ranks second on the team with 30 tackles, including a team-high three sacks and two interceptions.
The Browns (0-5) can ill afford play without Jackson when they host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) Sunday. His return to practice is a sign he’ll probably be able to play.
“He’s the core of this defense and really our defensive leader,” undrafted rookie linebacker L.J. Fort said of Jackson. “I’m sure when he’s not out there, there’s a whole different feel and vibe. He’s essential to our defense.”
Although Jackson came back, several other key players remain sidelined.
Starting strongside linebacker Scott Fujita (shoulder) joined the list of idle players. A team spokesman said Fujita is at the team’s headquarters today. He was limited with the same injury Wednesday. If Fujita can’t play Sunday, rookie James-Michael Johnson would likely start on the strong side.
Starting defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf) sat out. If Rubin is out Sunday, rookie John Hughes would start in his place alongside rookie Billy Winn.
“You don’t want to lose Rube,” defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said. “You never want to lose Rube. It’s another one of those situations where a starter leaves the lineup, and it’s just not good. It’s not what you’re looking for, and Rube is a quiet leader for us. So you don’t want him off the field. I don’t really have any problems nor choices with John and Billy [starting at the same time], but they’ve both really played at a high level, and I believe they’re getting better every week. They just are.”
Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) did not practice and said Monday he’ll be out for “a couple weeks.” Patterson covers the opposing slot receiver each week, a role either Buster Skrine or Trevin Wade will assume.
“There’s not limitless options there,” Jauron said. “And I do have a lot of faith in Buster, so I don’t have problems putting him in there. Trevin can be in there also and he may be in there to start the game. We’ll just have to see how the week unfolds.”
Wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), Jordan Norwood (foot) and Travis Benjamin (hamstring) did not practice, either. Free safety Tashaun Gipson (knee) remained sidelined.