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Browns LB Walker Jr. has knee surgery, captain's status unclear

Anthony Walker Jr. Cleveland Browns Anthony Walker Jr. - The Canadian Press

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns starting linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. had arthroscopic knee surgery, knocking him out of Sunday's game at Houston and putting his playing status in question as Cleveland aims for a playoff berth.

The team said Friday that Walker, one of the captains, had the procedure on Thursday and he'll be evaluated on a weekly basis going forward. The Browns (9-5) have three regular-season games remaining.

Walker missed last week's win over Chicago, just days after he tweaked his knee in practice. The 28-year-old Walker spoke to reporters earlier this week and said he was making progress while never mentioning the possibility of surgery.

Walker usually handles play calls for the NFL's top-ranked defense. He's recorded 44 tackles and recovered two fumbles in 12 games. He missed Cleveland's game on Nov. 26 with a hamstring injury.

“Big loss,” said linebacker Sione Takitaki. "He’s a captain on the defensive side, leader, one of those vocal guys that keeps everything in line. We’ll feel his loss but we’ll make sure that everybody else picks up.

“Next-man-up type of league. The other leaders lead and fill in where his presence was felt. So just got confidence in the whole defense to come in and keep going.”

Walker's injury is just the latest for the Browns, who have been ravaged by injuries since Week 1. Cleveland is on its fourth quarterback, without star running back Nick Chubb and playing backups at both offensive tackles.

Browns All-Pro left guard Joel Bitonio practiced again Friday and is listed as questionable to face the Texans. Bitonio was forced out of last week's game in the first quarter with back spasms.

Coach Kevin Stefanski didn't comment directly on how Bitonio looked in practice.

“He’s going to continue to work through that the next 48 hours,” Stefanski said. "I think it’s important to see how he responds. He got a plane ride coming up but he’s continuing to fight to make it.”

The Browns have ruled out defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo (pectoral) and safety Juan Thornhill (calf) for Sunday.