Just a game into the 2020 season, the Cleveland Browns are already looking like the Cleveland Browns. And unfortunately, not much has changed to fourth-year tight end David Njoku, either, who suffered an injury in the team’s season-opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The former first-round draft pick was placed on injured reserve yesterday.
After missing most of the 2019 season because of a wrist injury, Njoku is now dealing with a knee injury, which the team deemed severe enough to make this transaction. Of course, there is a pretty significant caveat in play for the 2020 season.
For this season only, in a move related to Covid-19 roster expansion efforts, teams may now place players on injured reserve with more short-term injuries, and they can be activated in as few as three weeks. Previously, players would have to remain on injured reserve for at least eight weeks (then changed to eight games) before being eligible to return. Also, teams may bring any number of players back from injured reserve.
Though only a temporary adjustment, I strongly believe that the NFL should keep it this way. Every other major professional sport has a similar short-term injured list that allows teams to call up players while not being burdened with that injured player during that time, often being forced to release another player just to bring in somebody to temporarily replace the injured party.
Anyway, moving on from my digression, Njoku was looking for a bounceback season after playing in just four games in 2019, catching five passes for 41 yards with one touchdown. He already managed to do better than that on Sunday before checking out with that knee injury, registering three receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown.
A first-round draft pick in 2017, one of three by the Browns that year, the young tight end has a lot of talent, but injuries have been an issue over the past 17 games, despite playing in all 16 games in each of his first two seasons in the NFL and showing a deal of promise while doing so, particularly in 2018.
But the good news is that the Browns do not believe that Njoku will be on IR for long. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that he is only anticipated to miss the three weeks that he is required to be down due to the IR rules.
Earlier this offseason, the tight end actually formally requested to be traded, but he rescinded that request by the time training camp rolled around—perhaps after realizing that that move was not going to be made. Nevertheless, he insisted that he is all in on the Browns. He is under contract through 2021 after Cleveland picked up his fifth-year option.