BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah didn't let a positive COVID-19 test and stitches in his forehead from a weight-room mishap slow him down.
And with his NFL regular-season debut just days away, the rookie linebacker isn't losing any speed.
‘I’m definitely ready," he said after Monday’s practice.
He'd better be.
Owusu-Koramoah expects to have a major role Sunday when the Browns start the 2021 schedule where their 2020 season ended — at Kansas City against Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his plethora of playmakers.
The magnitude of his opener isn't lost on the former Notre Dame star.
“I had my dad call me the other day, was like, ‘Hey, you ain’t getting no warmup?’” Owusu-Koramoah said with a laugh. “Every competitor wants to play against the best and that’s what we’re doing.”
He's been everything the Browns thought they were getting when they moved up in the second round to draft Owusu-Koramoah, who may be undersized (216 pounds) by pro linebacking standards but has the quickness to play in space and cover tight ends.
After All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce caught eight passes for 108 yards and a touchdown in last year's divisional-round win, Cleveland's front office knew it had to fix that matchup if the Browns ever hoped to unseat the Chiefs as AFC champions.
Owusu-Koramoah gives them a much better chance — in Week 1 or in January.
The 21-year-old has been doing his homework on Kelce, one of the Chiefs' chief targets.
“A high-rated guy,” Owusu-Koramoah said. "It is not foreign to me to have some type of matchup as such. Watched a lot of film and had to watch a lot of film to be able to be ready for a guy who is as talented as him.
"We will be ready. I will be ready. As a team, we are looking forward to game planning correctly.”
Owusu-Koramoah was in Dallas preparing for the combine the last time the Browns and Chiefs played. He watched Kansas City's 22-17 comeback win, which may not have happened if not for backup quarterback Chad Henne's improbable 13-yard scramble on third down late in the game.
It was a back-breaking play for Cleveland, and one Owusu-Koramoah thinks he could have prevented.
“I don’t want to speak too much on myself, boost myself up,” he said. “But, yeah, most def.”
Owusu-Koramoah didn't get into any specifics about his recent fall in the weight room. He needed stitches to close the gash and the injury prevented him from playing against Atlanta in the last preseason matchup — a final chance to fine tune for the Chiefs.
Because he couldn't put his helmet on over the sutures, Owusu-Koramoah also missed valuable practice time. He compensated by staying mentally sharp during practices — something he also had to do when he missed the start of camp after contracting the coronavirus.
“Same ordeal when I was in that COVID quarantine, same thing,” he said. "Doing everything that I can that’s off the field. I was still doing some individuals (drills) too, still running and doing things like that, making sure that I keep my stamina up.
“It wasn’t as big a setback as it may seem. We’ll be good.”
Owusu-Koramoah insists he doesn't care if he starts against the Chiefs.
"As long as I have a good role, as long as I make a big impact, take advantage of the time I do get. Not too worried about starting. It’s not about how you start, right? It’s about how you finish, so we’ll see about that.”
NOTES: The Browns began the week as healthy as they've been in some time. C JC Tretter, CB Troy Hill and WR Rashard Higgins were all on the field after missing time last week. ... As expected, Stefanski said K Chase McLaughlin will handle field goals and extra points against the Chiefs. McLaughlin won the job when incumbent starter Cody Parkey sustained a quadriceps injury last month and was placed on injured reserve. The Browns signed K Chris Naggar to the practice squad last week.
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