Set Ho Ho Ho! pic.twitter.com/yiH4MI4UOX
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 17, 2018//
BEREA — Right guard Kevin Zeitler heard a pop followed by a scream.
Then left guard Joel Bitonio heard Zeitler yell.
Those were the sounds emanating from Browns practice Thursday when offensive line coach and "Hard Knocks" star Bob Wylie suffered a nasty noncontact injury — a broken ankle that required surgery.
"It freaked me out," right tackle Chris Hubbard said Friday. "I’ve never seen a gruesome injury happen like that ever. So it scared me.
"[Wylie's ankle] was just disfigured. I can’t even get the image out of my head."
Wylie, 67, had surgery Thursday evening at University Hospitals, where he remained Friday.
Meanwhile, the offensive linemen became determined to rally and win one for their beloved position coach when the Browns (6-7-1) face the Cincinnati Bengals (6-8) on Sunday in the home finale at FirstEnergy Stadium.
"We’ll get the game ball for him and bring it to him," left tackle Greg Robinson said. "Yeah, that will be amazing."
Zeitler said it's "a given" that the offensive line will dedicate this weekend's AFC North matchup to Wiley, who has more than 40 years of coaching experience.
"We want to do our best for him," Zeitler said.
When the offensive line met Friday morning, Bitonio called Wylie and turned on speaker mode, so his teammates could join the conversation.
"He was in good spirits, and you could tell it was bothering him that he wasn’t here," Bitonio said. "We had our gift exchange scheduled for today, and he was sad he was going to miss that. But we postponed it, so we’ll figure that out."
The Browns are also figuring out how to coach their offensive line without Wylie because they don't expect him to be able to attend Sunday's game.
Assistant offensive line coach Mark Hutson is the de facto replacement. He's being aided by offensive quality control coach Brian Braswell.
"Those guys have kind of come together and really helped us out and kind of brought us together," Bitonio said. "But it’s tough when you lose your head guy and someone your guys have looked up to, and he’s really done a good job for us this year."
The Browns are second in ProFootballFocus.com's offensive line rankings this season.
"[Wylie is a] big-time smart guy," Zeitler said. "He knows the position inside and out. He's done it for so long, and he can tell you right away what you need to do, what you need to fix."
Wylie is known for his amusing personality, too. He recently played the part of Santa Claus for a holiday video the Browns produced. In the video, Wylie stood on a blocking sled as the offensive linemen, dressed as reindeer, pushed the contraption. The video went viral shortly after the Browns posted it on social media Monday.
"I’m glad we got the video recorded before [the injury] happened," Bitonio said.
In what seemed like a nod to Wylie's sense of humor, the Browns listed him on their injury report Friday with an ankle injury and declared him doubtful for Sunday.
"It's a very tense job, a tense position," Zeitler said. "[Wylie's fun-loving nature] brings some humanity back to it."
Robinson said seeing Wylie injured "messed up my whole practice" and he spent a lot of time Thursday night praying for the coach.
"He’s such a great guy," Robinson said. "He makes you want to come to work."
"He’s seriously one of the best humans that I know," Bitonio added. "He gives back all the time. He cares about us as people, and he does a good job coaching us as well. So it was tough to see him go down."
The Browns know a win would go a long way toward helping Wylie feel better.
"He's in our thoughts and prayers," interim coach Gregg Williams said. "He'll bounce back."
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.