Scott Fujita’s second season with the Cleveland Browns could be over.
The veteran linebacker broke his right hand in Sunday’s 23-20 loss to Cincinnati and will undergo surgery later this week. Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Fujita will miss ”a significant amount of time” and it’s possible the club will place the 32-year-old on injured reserve for the second year in a row.
Fujita played in just nine games last season before he was inactive for five weeks and then placed on IR.
One of the team’s top defenders and leaders, Fujita will be difficult to replace.
”It’s huge,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. ”He’s a veteran guy who controls his side of the defense. We work well together out there, but we have to move forward. We’re not gonna be able to replace him but we’ve got guys that are capable of making plays. That’s a part of the game. Guys get hurt, especially in our room.
”It’s a big loss for us You can’t replace him. He makes a ton of plays. He helps me out. We see things. We have the luxury of changing some things if we see it. I’ve got to step up my preparation a bit. Everyone has to step up a little bit better, so we can try to move forward and not see a major drop off.”
Shurmur said the Browns will move Chris Gocong over to Fujita’s spot at strong side linebacker and Kaluka Maiava will take over for Gocong on the weak side. However, Maiava sprained his knee against the Bengals and his status for this week’s game against Baltimore may not be known for a few days.
Jackson said it’s hard to see Fujita’s season end prematurely.
”Scott works his tail off,” Jackson said. ”He loves to play the game. It’s a great confidence on having him out there, a 10-, 11-year vet. But other guys have to step up.”
Also, starting defensive end Emmanuel Stephens injured his chest muscle and Shurmur said he will also miss ”significant time.” Stephens was only making his second start Sunday after winning the job from Jayme Mitchell.
It wasn’t all negative for the Browns.
Shurmur said running back Peyton Hillis did not have any setbacks after missing six games with a hamstring injury. Hillis rushed for 65 yards on 19 carries.
Running back Montario Hardesty had been expected to play Sunday after missing three games with a calf injury. But the injury-prone second-year back felt his calf tighten in pregame warmups and was inactive.
Quarterback Colt McCoy has a sore right elbow after banging it on Cleveland’s opening drive Sunday. Shurmur expects McCoy to practice this week.
”He’s got a little bit of a sore elbow, but he’s fine,” Shurmur said.
Shurmur said strong safety T.J. Ward has made more progress with his sprained right foot and the team is ”hopeful we’ll have him back soon.”