The Columbus Dispatch
Hooper says Browns players were ‘out of gas’ before last week’s bye
The Cleveland Browns’ Week 13 bye was the second-latest of any on the 2021 NFL schedule, and tight end Austin Hooper believes that took its toll.
“To be honest with you, the past couple games it looked like we were just out of gas,” Hooper, a six-year veteran, said. ”It’s the latest bye week I’ve ever had, the latest bye week a lot of these coaches have ever had. I’ve never had a December bye week. It was good to just unplug, rest.
“There are a lot of ailments people are going through that never hear the light of day. So having that was just awesome to get your legs back under you again, get some juice back there, we can run, feel good. So, I mean, just being out there feeling good again out on the football field, that alone helps.”
The Browns (6-6) have lost two of their last three games and totaled only 30 points combined against the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens. They face the Ravens (8-4) again Sunday, this time at Firstenergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said he did not get the same sense for his team as Hooper, but added, “We try to be mindful from a workload standpoint, but it is a long season. It can be taxing physically. It can be taxing mentally.”
All signs point to Hudson III starting at RT
All-pro right tackle Jack Conklin suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee at Baltimore and underwent surgery for the season-ending injury this week.
Stefanski would not reveal who would start Conklin’s place, but comments from Browns players point to rookie James Hudson III, a fourth-round pick out of the University of Cincinnati.
Hudson has started one game, an Oct. 17 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals, when Conklin was out with a knee injury. He has played in eight games, but not in the previous three, and was inactive against the Ravens.
Ward is Browns Walter Payton Man of Year
Cornerback Denzel Ward, a Nordonia High School and Ohio State product, is being recognized Sunday as the Browns’ Walter Payton Man of the Year, chosen for exceptional performance on the field and his dedication to the community. The NFL winner of the award will be announced Feb. 10.