By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Jakeem Grant Sr.’s inspiring comeback with the Browns came to an abrupt, painful stop.
Grant, who was signed last year to fix Cleveland’s return game, will miss his second straight season with an injury after hurting his right knee on the opening kickoff in Saturday’s exhibition game in Kansas City.
Grant had worked his way back from an Achilles tendon tear only to suffer another major injury the first time he touched the ball for Cleveland in a game. He signed a three-year, $10 million contract as a free agent in 2022.
“Very disappointed for Jakeem,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Sunday on a Zoom call. “To see a guy that worked so hard to come back from the previous injuries. I just marvel at his strength and I know his teammates do as well, so that’s a tough one. We had high hopes for Jakeem.”
The team placed Grant on injured reserve.
The 31-year-old had been making progress in training camp and was poised to handle return duties this season before getting hurt while being tackled against the Chiefs. Stefanski did not provide any specifics on Grant’s injury.
The Browns have internal candidates — wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, running backs Demetric Felton and Jerome Ford among them — to replace Grant on punts and kickoffs, but Stefanski said the club also will explore outside options. NFL teams must cut their rosters down to 53 players by Tuesday.
Grant’s injury was the most significant, but the Browns had other notable players get hurt in the 33-32 loss to the Chiefs.
Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward sustained a concussion, at least his fourth in the past six years. Ward missed three games last season with a head injury.
Ward’s latest injury could jeopardize him being ready for the Sept. 10 opener against Cincinnati, but Stefanski stressed he’s merely in the league protocols and the Browns will monitor his progress.
Also, linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk sustained a knee injury and will be out “multiple weeks,” Stefanski said.
On a positive note, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin has been cleared to practice after being sidelined with blood clots in his legs and lungs.
The Browns signed the 32-year-old Goodwin as a free agent in April to bring speed to their wide receiving corps. Goodwin has remained with team while sidelined and can now take part in on-field activities.
Stefanski didn’t want to put a timetable on Goodwin’s potential return to games.
“We’ll integrate him as we can and as he allows and with keeping the medical side fully involved in those type of decisions,” he said. “But where that goes from here, I’m not sure, but I think it’s a good positive first step to take him off that (non-football injury) list.”
Notes: Stefanski would not commit to Cade York when asked if the second-year kicker will be on the field for the season opener. York has had a horrendous exhibition season, missing another PAT and having a late, potential game-winning field goal blocked by the Chiefs. The Browns have been publicly supportive of York but could bring in another kicker for competition or as a backup plan. … WR Anthony Schwartz, a third-round pick in 2022, was among 12 players released as the Browns trimmed their roster to 76. … Recently signed RB Justin Wilkins was also cut, a day after he fumbled and had an handoff exchange issue with QB Deshaun Watson.