2 Browns’ draft picks linked by horrific injury

Published 7:02 pm Saturday, April 27, 2024

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The Cleveland Browns selected two players in the NFL draft forever connected by a horrific injury.

In Friday’s third round, the team picked Michigan guard Zak Zinter, who broke his left leg against Ohio State on Nov. 25 when Buckeyes defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr., taken by the Browns in the second round, was accidentally thrown into him.

Zinter, an AP first-team All-American, fractured his tibia and fibula on a play that hushed a crowd of more than 100,000 fans inside Michigan Stadium.

Email newsletter signup

Former rivals, Zinter and Hall are now teammates — already linked by a fateful play.

“Kind of a full-circle moment,” Zinter said on a conference call.

The 6-foot-6, 309-pound Zinter was blocking another Ohio State lineman when Hall was pushed down onto the back of Zinter’s leg. As he lay on the field in pain, Michigan’s team left its sideline to support him and the crowd broke into chants of “Let’s Go Zak!” before Zinter was carted off.

The moment inspired the Wolverines, who scored on the next play, beat Ohio State for the third year in a row and went on to win the school’s first outright national championship since 1948.

Zinter said he has no hard feelings toward Hall. They’ve only talked once while making a team visit together.

“He is a great dude and it’s football stuff that happens when we’re playing in the trenches,” Zinter said. “But I’m fired up and I think everything happens for a reason. Now we’re going to be teammates, so I’m fired up to get there and get to work with him at practice.”

Zinter said his leg has healed nicely, and he feels fortunate he can pursue his dream of playing.

“I’ve been saying all along that this is the best worst-case scenario,” he said. “I mean, it’s just bone. Bone heals easy, way better than ligaments in the knee or the ankle.”

The Browns aren’t worried about Zinter having any lingering effects from the injury.

“We didn’t do a private (workout) or anything like that, but we felt really good about the medical,” general manager Andrew Berry said. “They did send video of him moving around on his own in private workouts, but he’ll be ready to go this spring and there’s really no concern about the leg.”

While it was thrilling to see his teammates finish off an unbeaten season, Zinter said it was difficult not being on the field.

“I decided to come back for my senior year last year to come back with the guys and compete and win a national championship and to go down in my senior night, last game in the Big House against Ohio State, all that kind of stuff,” he said. “It’s definitely bittersweet, but the boys rallied around me and we came out on top.”