BEREA — Barkevious Mingo blocked, then ran downfield to cover a punt. A few minutes later, he went head-to-head with a blocking sled.
These everyday occurrences were noteworthy Wednesday because Mingo had been barred from contact since suffering a bruised lung Aug. 15 against the Lions. Coach Rob Chudzinski announced the rookie was cleared to play, and Mingo is expected to make his NFL debut Sunday in Baltimore.
“It’s very exciting,” Mingo said before practice. “I watched last week and I just want to get on the field. Hopefully I can do that.
“It’s up to the coaches. If I’m up this week and I’m practicing well and they think I can help the team win, then hopefully they’ll let me play.”
Mingo, the No. 6 pick in the draft in April, was inactive for Week 1, a 23-10 loss to Miami. He had returned to practice last week but was limited to agility drills. He was limited again Wednesday but wore shoulder pads and bumped into people and things for the first time since the preseason game against Detroit.
Mingo spit up blood on the sideline and was short of breath after taking an ordinary hit on the opening kickoff against the Lions. He has said he’s felt good for weeks.
“I feel better knowing I’m able to play if I’m called upon,” he said.
Mingo is expected to join the rotation at outside linebacker with starters Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard and backup Quentin Groves. Kruger and Groves had sacks in the opening loss.
“I feel I bring a lot to this team and the coaches can use me in different ways,” Mingo said. “I think that’s the best part about it. I’m ready to get it done. And just ready to play.”
Chudzinski said Mingo could play outside linebacker in the base defense and be a rusher in sub packages.
“I think there will be a pretty good rotation with that group,” Chudzinski said of the outside linebackers. “They all really have something to bring to the table, and that’s a strength of ours.”
For Chudzinski, it’s too early to tell what impact Mingo can have in his debut, especially after being limited for about a month. But Mingo hasn’t lost any of the athleticism the Browns saw when they scouted him at LSU — he looked as quick as ever going through drills Wednesday.
“Anytime you’ve got your first-round draft pick like Mingo, somebody explosive and able to go out there and make plays on any given snap, it’s exciting to have him,” free safety Tashaun Gipson said. “That just gives us another threat. We’ve already got Kruger, Jabaal and those guys right there. So adding another guy definitely is a huge aspect to this game right now, and I feel like it’s going to pay dividends. You never can have too many pass rushers or run stoppers, and I think we’ve got a great amount of them.”
The defense played well for three quarters against the Dolphins, with four sacks of Ryan Tannehill. But it appeared to run out of gas in the fourth quarter as the pass rush stopped getting home and the Dolphins scored the clinching touchdown.
The addition of Mingo should help avoid fatigue.
“I certainly hope so,” he said.
Despite the rare injury and length of time before doctors cleared him, Mingo said he’s not worried about returning to action and doesn’t feel he’ll hold back.
“I’m just ready to play, hit, tackle, sack, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m just ready to get back out on the field.”
His mom, Barbara Johnson, forbid him from playing football in high school because she didn’t want him to get hurt. Mingo, who joined the team behind her back, said she’s still worried about him.
“She asks me every day how am I doing,” he said. “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.”
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