BEREA, Ohio — When linebacker Chris Gocong was writhing in agony on the practice field, the Cleveland Browns were concerned.
Hours later, the Browns found out it was worse than they thought. Gocong is likely out for the season after injuring his right Achilles tendon.
“It’s an Achilles for Gocong, so he’ll have surgery,” coach Pat Shurmur said before a Saturday afternoon walk-through. “There’s no point in trying to conceal anything. It’s an Achilles.”
A Browns spokesman said Gocong could have the surgery as soon as Monday and that surgeons will determine the severity of the injury at that time.
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Cleveland already was faced with not having linebacker Scott Fujita for the first three games because of his league suspension for being part of the bounty scandal in New Orleans before joining the Browns two years ago. Now they will open the year without at least three starters on defense. Lineman Phil Taylor will be sidelined until midseason as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle.
Everyone knew Gocong was hurt halfway through the morning practice, but the Browns held out hope that one of their team leaders would not be gone for long.
“It looked serious. It always does when a guy doesn’t get up,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “You hate to see that. He plays a major role.”
Gocong clearly was in pain after crumpling to the ground during morning practice. Covered in sweat, he grimaced as trainers removed his right shoe and gingerly checked his lower leg. As he was lifted onto a cart, Gocong’s leg hung straight downward.
One day after new owner Jimmy Haslam III came to camp and provided a positive lift to a franchise that has been stuck in the losing doldrums, the Browns were dealt yet another damaging blow.
“It affects us all, puts a damper on practice,” Jackson said. “Chris can play every linebacker spot and play them well. If he’s not there, it’s a major hit. All the other guys have to step up and do more.”
Gocong has been durable, starting all 32 games for Cleveland since being acquired from Philadelphia in a trade in April 2010.
Signed to a three-year contract extension in September, the 28-year-old Gocong was a steadying influence on a defense needing consistency. He made 10 starts on the weak side, six on the strong, and got a career-best 3½ sacks. He also recovered a fumble and made 67 tackles — including two on a goal-line stand against Pittsburgh in December.
Gocong got hurt trying to prevent Jordan Cameron from making a leaping catch of a Brandon Weeden pass in the end zone. Fans and players cheered then fell silent when Gocong clutched his leg.