BEREA — Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton was enjoying lunch in the team cafeteria Saturday when he received a pleasant surprise.
Rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo was also dining there — laughing and visiting with his teammates — just hours after being released from the hospital following treatment for a bruised lung.
“I don’t know when he’ll be back on the field, but he looks great,” Horton said. “I could tell you what he had for lunch, but he’s fine. We just want him to get healthy, and are glad that everything is OK.
“He’s going to miss some time, but we’re all happy that it’s not a career- or season-ending injury.”
First-round pick Mingo was injured Thursday during Cleveland’s 24-6 preseason win over the Detroit Lions. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder absorbed a hit to the torso while playing special teams, which forced him to be admitted to Cleveland Clinic before the game ended.
Mingo said he experienced difficulty breathing and was coughing up blood on the sideline, but did not suffer any broken ribs or cartilage damage. He also can’t pinpoint when the injury occurred, but said the opening kickoff was a possibility.
“I’m perfectly fine and my ribs are perfect,” Mingo said, smiling. “I had no pain and no bruising, which kind of surprised the doctors, as well. Thinking back, I didn’t feel like a hit was delivered that hard.
“Honestly, if it wasn’t for the shortness of breath I was having, I probably would have still been out there playing.”
The former Louisiana State standout said he felt so good after his two-night stay in the hospital he wanted to put on his uniform and stand on the sideline during practice. He did just that, and was promptly greeted by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III and coach Rob Chudzinski.
Mingo said he was not given a timetable for returning to action, but indicated it will occur sooner, rather than later. The No. 6 overall selection in the NFL Draft has been working with the second-team defense at outside linebacker.
“You would think a bruised lung would be serious, but I feel fine,” he said. “They told me to take it easy for a couple days, and when the coaches and doctors tell me I’m able to come back, I’ll be out there trying to help this team win games.”
Though Mingo has not officially been ruled out, it is unlikely that he will play in Cleveland’s final two preseason games. The Browns travel to Indianapolis on Aug. 24 and visit Chicago on Aug. 29.
Cleveland opens its regular season at home Sept. 8 against the Miami Dolphins.
“All I have to do now is just rest up and let it heal,” Mingo said. “That’s what they told me in the hospital, which was pretty nice. They gave me a bed and a TV, and they said, ‘Watch this and don’t move, and you’ll be OK.’ I was fine with that.”
While Mingo’s medical prognosis is excellent, his chances of contributing to the team — at least early on — are not good.
Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard are the starters, while fellow veteran Quentin Groves is serving as the Browns’ third outside linebacker. Mingo was backing up Sheard prior to his injury, but had not made a strong bid to win his job.
“(Mingo) is very smart, he is on page, but young guys need every rep they can get,” Horton said. “This injury will retard his progress a little bit, but he is pretty gifted in what he does and he picks things up fast. How much? I can’t give you a quantitative answer, but it will hurt him a little bit.”
Mingo admitted that his coordinator was correct, but said he wasn’t going to dwell on his situation because things could have turned out much worse.
“I was like this when I was in the hospital that night and I told them I was fine, but they just want to take it slow,” the 22-year-old said. “They got me the scans and they made the right call. I’m going to keep listening to what they tell me until they say I’m ready to come back.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.