Jakeem Grant Sr. drove into Browns training camp with a torn Achilles tendon

Jakeem Grant Sr. drove into Browns training camp with a torn Achilles tendon

BEREA, Ohio — Browns Pro Bowl return specialist Jakeem Grant Sr. took to the podium Sunday and vowed to be much more than just a returnee this season.

His personality has been just as dynamic as his punt and kick returns over the years. Six have been taken back for touchdowns since 2016, when the Dolphins drafted him in the sixth round from Texas Tech.

On Tuesday, those big plans for the 2022 season were dashed when he was transported early in training with a torn left Achilles tendon that will likely require season-ending surgery soon.

“I feel really terrible for Jakeem,” coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement after practice. “We have seen how hard the young man has worked since he joined our team. We all know that injuries are part of our game but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept, especially for someone who works as hard and supports themselves as Jakeem.”

It happened during a one-on-one drill against cornerback AJ Green when both went after the ball. Grant appeared to get awkwardly on the leg with minimal contact from Green.

He grimaced on the field while coaches examined his lower leg, and it looked like a season-ending injury. He held his head in his hands as he drove to the field house, and it was obvious that he would be done for the year. He had an MRI on Tuesday night to confirm the injury, but the worst was already being feared.

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It was the second time Grant had injured the same Achilles, the first being in 2018 when he was injured in Week 10 and underwent season-ending surgery. This time it wasn’t a full tear and he didn’t need the major repair he will undergo this time.

The surgery Grant Delpit had as a third-year man during training camp in 2020 will be around a full year before he comes back – and Grant will be 30 in October.

He is the Browns’ second wide receiver to pick up a season-ending injury this season. First was non-callup rookie Isaiah Weston, who tore a cruciate ligament and meniscus early in camp and was placed on injured reserve.

But that’s not all. The Browns have suffered a string of receiver injuries at this camp and have had to bolster the court with young prospects. Third-round pick David Bell probably suffered a stress fracture in his foot during minicamp and is coming back. Anthony Schwartz suffered a knee injury and has only been back for a few days.

Sixth-round pick Michael Woods II, the top young offensive player at camp in week one, suffered a hamstring injury last week and will be out for some time, Stefanski said.

The injuries opened the door for Grant, who is 5ft 6, to prove he’s more than just an electric returnee. He found himself in the middle of an excellent camp and made his case for the game time on offense.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I always preach that I’m a receiver first before I return and I will continue to preach that message and keep working on it until I get the opportunity to have that breakout season.” ‘

Thanks to its size, “I automatically get pigeonholed as a returnee. I don’t think anything of it, I just keep it in the back of my mind and keep working on my receiver game. And I take every opportunity that comes my way.”

His recipe for success is “Be a jitterbug, man. Just don’t get hit. What I’m always proud of is that you can’t hit what you can’t catch. So if they can’t catch me, they can’t hit me.”

No one was happier than special teams coordinator Mike Priefer when the Browns signed Grant on a three-year free agent deal worth up to $13.8 million during the offseason. And probably no one’s heart sank more when they saw him towed away. The Browns haven’t received a kick for a TD since 2015, and Grant was just the man to end the drought.

“It was extremely important to sign him,” Priefer said this week. “I’ve been wanting to bring Jakeem over here for the last few years, he was free and Andrew (Berry) went out and got him and I’m really happy about that. That will change our second leg. … it’s about field position and Jakeem adds that you can make a big game with him because he’s so talented.”

With Grant out, the Browns will have to split return duties among Donovan Peoples-Jones, Demetric Felton, Anthony Schwartz, D’Ernest Johnson and others. They’ll also likely be keeping their eyes peeled for returnees to free themselves in the August 30 roster cuts.

But the loss of Grant, their small but mighty Pro Bowler, is a blow.

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