Browns’ rookie breaks collarbone
BEREA (AP) — Already thin, the Browns’ group of wide receivers has gotten skeletal.
Rookie Derrick Willies broke his collarbone in practice Friday and will miss Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers and likely several more, further depleting a receiving unit lacking experienced playmakers.
Willies came off the bench last week after Rashard Higgins injured his right knee and made the game’s biggest play in an overtime win. But both he and Higgins will miss this week’s game, and the Browns (2-2-1) will have to go further down their depth chart.
Rookie Damion Ratley will likely be active and fill in for Willies as Cleveland’s No. 3 receiver behind Jarvis Landry and rookie Antonio Callaway. Running back Duke Johnson, who led the team in receptions last season, can also line up wide or in the slot.
A sixth-round pick from Texas A&M, Ratley is excited about the opportunity.
“I’m going to try to bring the best of my abilities in everything I can do, catching and running, doing everything I can to help the team where he was going to help the team,” Ratley said. “Next man up, that’s what it is.”
Ratley has been inactive for just two games and hasn’t played the past two weeks. But seeing Willies make the most of his chance against the Ravens inspired him.
“I can’t get mad because he was performing in places I wasn’t performing,” Ratley said. “It hurts, not being active. It killed me, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to help the team win. I’ve been ready to contribute whenever I was needed, whenever I was called on, that was my mentality. I just kept going and now it’s my time, my opportunity to do what I need to do.”
Willies came through for the Browns last week after Higgins went down while making a block in the fourth quarter.
An undrafted free agent from Texas Tech, Willies turned a short pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield into a 39-yard gain in overtime to help set up Cleveland’s game-winning field goal with 2 seconds left.
Willies finished with three catches for 61 yards.
It’s not known how long Higgins will be sidelined, and his status could force the Browns to sign another receiver. The Browns met with former Cowboys star and free agent Dez Bryant during the summer, but the sides couldn’t reach agreement on a contract.
Cleveland worked former Tennessee receiver Rishard Matthews earlier this week, but for now the team will push ahead with Landry and its rookies.