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Browns place safety Delpit on injured reserve

Cleveland Browns Jacksonville Jaguars Grant Delpit, Evan Engram - The Canadian Press

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland's top-ranked defense took two big hits Wednesday.

The Browns lost safety Grant Delpit, who had groin surgery and went on injured reserve, for the rest of the regular season and coach Kevin Stefanski said end Ogbo Okoronkwo has a pectoral injury that will likely sideline him for several weeks — and maybe longer.

It's been a brutal few days for the Browns (8-5), who have managed to stay in the AFC playoff race despite a wave of injuries since training camp.

Cleveland is on its fourth starting quarterback — 38-year-old Joe Flacco — because of injuries, and Stefanski and his staff have spent the season plugging holes.

“For us, we play with who’s available,” Stefanski said, downplaying the impact of all the injuries. "We have a lot of good players. We have a lot of good backups that we call on and we trust them. Just how we operate.”

While every team deals with injuries, the Browns' situation has become difficult as they try to make the postseason for just the second time since 2002.

“I hope we don’t have to find out anymore,” said linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. "We believe in everybody in this locker room. They’re here for a reason. Obviously. It sucks to lose guys. We’ve done it all year from Week 1 on.

“So the name of the NFL is next man up, as we all like to say. We don’t like to say it, but we have to say it.”

Delpit injured his groin while blitzing against Jacksonville on Sunday, one day before he signed a three-year, $36 million contract extension. Delpit sacked the Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence for a 13-yard loss before getting hurt.

Designated to IR, he has to miss the final four regular-season games for the Browns (8-5), who are currently in the No. 5 playoff spot in the AFC heading into this week's game against the Chicago Bears (5-8).

Stefanski said “potentially” when asked if Delpit could be back if the Browns qualify for the postseason.

The 25-year-old Delpit was having his best NFL season, leading the team with 77 tackles and anchoring Cleveland’s solid secondary. Delpit, who was drafted in the second round in 2020, also has an interception and fumble recovery.

As for Okoronkwo, who is second on the team with 4 1/2 sacks in his first season after signing with the Browns as a free agent, Stefanski didn't say if he's going on IR, but “might be be headed that way.”

Okoronkwo got hurt sacking Lawrence in the third quarter. He returned but wasn't as effective.

The Browns have been banged up since training camp.

Just this week, they lost starting tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Dawand Jones for the remainder of the season. Wills had knee surgery on Tuesday and Jones is scheduled to have a procedure after injuring his knee in practice last week.

Cleveland is also missing quarterback Deshaun Watson (shoulder), running back Nick Chubb (knee), tackle Jack Conklin (knee), safety Rodney McLeod (biceps) and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (pectoral).

Return specialist Jakeem Grant (knee) and linebacker Jacob Phillips (pectoral) both got hurt during the summer.

Flacco only arrived a few weeks ago, but the 15-year veteran has been impressed with the Browns' resilience and resolve.

“Everybody in here is our guy and it’s just next man up mentality,” he said. "You have to give a lot of credit to Kevin just for dealing with those variables and being able to continue to go out there and have success.

“I’ve probably been part of seasons where we’ve been injured like this. I don’t know if were still standing 8-5. ... I think going out there and winning cures a lot.”

NOTES: The Browns were missing other notable players in practice as starting C Ethan Pocic (stinger) and DT Jordan Elliott (concussion) were both out after also getting hurt Sunday. RB Jerome Ford (wrist) was limited. ... CB Denzel Ward (shoulder) was limited. He's missed the past three games. ... Safety Duron Harmon was signed from the practice squad.