By Tom Withers
Barkevious Mingo doesn’t have to wait any longer. He’s recovered from a scary injury and cleared to play.
Mingo, who was hospitalized with a bruised lung he sustained in an Aug. 15 exhibition game, returned to full contact in practice on Wednesday and is expected to make his NFL debut this week against the Baltimore Ravens.
The first-round draft pick missed Cleveland’s final two preseason games and last week’s season-opening, 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
But doctors have given him the OK to return to the field, and he’s looking forward to it.
“I feel better knowing that I’m able to play if I’m called upon,” Mingo said. “I feel I bring a lot to this team, and the coaches can use me in different ways. I think that’s the best part about it. I’m ready to get it done and just ready to play.”
The No. 6 overall pick in April’s draft worked with the punt-coverage team and took part in all of the contact drills with Cleveland’s other linebackers. Last week, he was restricted from hitting the blocking sled or tackling dummies.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Mingo’s role against the Ravens is still to be determined.
“We’ll still be working him, and today we’ll get him out there and see where he’s at from a conditioning standpoint and make an assessment as we go in the week,” Chudzinski said before the Browns practiced in oppressively steamy conditions.
The former LSU standout is listed as a backup to starter Jabaal Sheard, but Mingo is expected to be rotated into Cleveland’s defense as an edge rusher. The Browns’ front seven, despite missing Mingo and starter Ahtyba Rubin, recorded four sacks and put decent pressure on Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill before tiring in the fourth quarter.
“I think we’ll get a pretty good rotation with that group,” Chudzinski said. “They all really have something to bring to the table, and that’s a strength of ours.”
Mingo believes he was injured while covering the opening kickoff against Detroit, but doesn’t recall any significant contact. He experienced shortness of breath and spit up some blood while standing on the sideline.
Mingo isn’t concerned about taking another big hit, but said his mother, Barbara Johnson, is nervous about his safety.
“She was worried. She still is,” Mingo said. “She asks me every day how am I doing. I just have to let her know that I’m doing good, I feel good. The coaches and the doctors both agree that I’m able to play. I’m ready to play, so I think she’ll be OK.”