Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo is expected to make his NFL regular-season debut Sunday when the Browns (0-1) visit the Baltimore Ravens (0-1).
“He has been cleared to play,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said today during a news conference. “So we’ll get him out there in practice today, and we’ll go from there.”
Mingo missed the final two preseason games and the season-opening, 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday with a bruised lung.
“I feel better knowing that I’m able to play if I’m called upon,” said Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. “I feel I bring a lot to this team, and the coaches can use me in different ways. I think that’s the best part about it. I’m ready to get it done and just ready to play.”
Mingo was diagnosed with a bruised lung Aug. 15 after he left an exhibition game against the Detroit Lions because he was spitting up blood and experiencing shortness of breath. He was taken to the Cleveland Clinic’s main campus during the game and spent two nights there before being released. Mingo believes he suffered the unusual injury during the opening kickoff against the Lions, even though he cannot identify a specific big hit as the culprit.
Last week, Mingo participated in practice on a limited basis. He sat out contact drills, including ones in which his teammates hit blocking sleds and tackling dummies.
But Mingo hit the blocking sled today and participated in a team punting drill during the 30-minute portion of practice open to the media.
Mingo said he’s not afraid to hit again, but he conceded his mother, Barbara Johnson, is concerned.
“She was worried. She still is,” Mingo said. “She asks me every day how am I doing. I just have to let her know that I’m doing good, I feel good, the coaches and the doctors both agree that I’m able to play, I’m ready to play, so I think she’ll be OK.”
Mingo is a backup outside linebacker who’s expected to receive significant playing time this season as a situational pass rusher. Chudzinski acknowledged Mingo and fellow backup linebacker Quentin Groves should have prominent roles, even though Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard are the starters at the position.
“I think we’ll get a pretty good rotation with that group,” Chudzinski said. “They all really have something to bring to the table, and that’s a strength of ours.”
Chudzinski said the Browns will still experiment with Mingo on special teams.
“We’ll still be working him, and today we’ll get him out there and see where he’s at from a conditioning standpoint and make an assessment as we go in the week,” Chudzinski said.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh conceded it’ll be tough to prepare for Mingo because there’s not much film of him in the NFL.
“That would be a big challenge for us,” Harbaugh said today during a conference call. “We know him from the draft. That’s all we really have.”
Strong safety T.J. Ward (shoulder), defensive end Ahtyba Rubin (calf) and right guard Shawn Lauvao (high ankle sprain) didn’t practice today. Ward and Rubin worked out on stationary bikes today. Lauvao was not on the practice field.
Chudzinski described Ward as “sore.” Ward said he’s “pretty positive” about his injured shoulder.
Lauvao said he’s been out of a walking boot for about a week. When asked if he’ll be able to practice this week, Lauvao said, “We’ll see how it goes.”
Chudzinski said he’ll give running back Bobby Rainey another shot as the team’s kickoff returner.
“We’ll stick with Rainey,” Chudzinski said. “We do have some other guys and some other options. We have some flexibility there.”
Rainey brought four kickoffs out of the end zone Sunday and returned them for 103 yards (25.8 average). But he only crossed the 20-yard line once.