Prospective starting center Nick Harris went down with a right knee injury on Friday, August 12, after just the second play from scrimmage against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The third-year offensive lineman was carted off the field, and the news only got worse 24 hours later.
“Nick is certainly a guy who has worked so hard this offseason,” Stefanski said. “So we’re really hoping that it’s not a season-long thing because the kid has worked so hard.”
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Browns’ Best Option at Center May be Re-Signing JC Tretter
However, If the injury is season-ending, the Browns will need to bring in reinforcements along the offensive line. They could decide to go with a backup and try Ethan Pocic in the starting role, who filled in for Harris after his exit Friday.
Pocic, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks, started 40 games across five seasons for his former team.
“Ethan went in there and did a really nice job,” Stefanski said. “He’s been with us since April. We went out and got him for a reason, and we’re excited about what he did last night.”
The other, and perhaps better, option is to bring back J.C. Tretter. Tretter is the president of the NFL Players Union and was a five-year member of the Browns before the team released him in March.
Tretter was not released for performance issues. Rather, his departure was orchestrated as a salary cap move to clear more than $8 million in space, as the Browns prepared to pursue big name players via trade, such as quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Amari Cooper, and to sign current players to long-term extensions, such as cornerback Denzel Ward and tight end David Njoku.
Browns Can Use Elite Ironman Like Tretter on O-Line Amid QB Issues
Tretter missed only one game during his half-decade with the Browns, sitting out a contest last season due to COVID-related issues. He otherwise played, and started in, a total of 80 regular season contests while donning the orange and brown, per Pro Football Reference.
The center also allowed just one sack and committed only five penalties all of last season, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). His overall PFF grade was a stellar 78.7 in 2021, while his pass protection was elite at a rating of 83.7.
The Browns could certainly use Tretter’s abilities in both the passing game and his general tendency to stay on the field amid the quarterback drama currently playing out in Cleveland. Watson started the team’s opening preseason contest Friday, but he is expected to be suspended for at least six games before the regular season begins and could miss up to a full year depending on the outcome of an NFL appeal regarding his case.