Carlson’s injury rehab ‘on track’
Two months after season-ending knee surgery, Stephen Carlson said that he is “on track” with his rehabilitation.
“My specific time-related goals that we have, I’ve reached them,” the third-year Cleveland Browns tight end said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m feeling good about everything. Obviously, I’d love to be out there playing. It makes me sad every weekend when I’m just watching the game instead of being involved.”
Carlson suffered ACL and MCL tears to his knee during the first half of the Browns’ preseason game at Jacksonville on Aug. 14.
“I think it was very unlucky timing, a one-in-a-million chance,” he said of the injury, which he suffered after being hit after catching a pass near the sideline. “At the moment my foot was planted into the ground, the guy at that exact time (hit me). It’s the worst time for everything to happen. It was unlucky, but it happened. I’ve been in that situation a thousand times and it’s the only time something bad has happened.”
Noting it was “just part of the game,” Carlson said he had seen teammates go through the same type of injury and now he has a whole new perspective.
“Going through the season, you definitely can get lost sometimes in the week-to-week, non-stop repetitiveness of everything. I don’t know if many people would admit it, but definitely as the year goes on you get kind of tired of things and you look forward to the offseason, but I would love to be back on the field now going through everything.”
Since joining the Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Princeton University in 2019, Carlson landed a spot on the practice squad before being activated to the 53-man roster in Week 9. A few weeks later, he sealed a Browns’ victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in prime time by catching a touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield — the first reception of his career.
In 2020, Carlson was a standout on special teams, securing two wins over the Steelers with onside-kick recoveries, the latter in the AFC Wild-Card playoff round.
It was generally viewed by media members following the Browns that he would again make the team as a fourth-string tight end this season behind Austin Hooper, David Njoku and Harrison Bryant.
Carlson said he hopes to be back by the start of optional team activities in the spring.
“The average (rehab) is nine months for everything,” he said. “I think that would put me right at the start of OTAs, but I haven’t been looking that far ahead. I think I just have to take things one step at a time. Because it happened so early in the year, I have a lot of time, honestly, before I have to get ready. The trainers know that and we’re taking things not necessarily slow, but at a pace that would get me back for next season.”
The 2015 Jamestown High School graduate is used to overcoming obstacles, beginning when he barely played his first two years at Princeton, but finished his career as one of the top receivers in school history.
“I’m very good at sticking to plans and sticking to routines to achieve my goals, I think,” Carlson said. “I obviously have a goal of playing again next season, being ready for next season and being on the 53-man roster and have a role.”
In the meantime, he’ll continue his rehab routine at the Browns’ training facility in Berea, Ohio, attend team meetings and watch home games from a suite at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“I’m not going to brush things off, I’m not going to be lazy,” Carlson said. “I know what it takes and I’ll put in what it takes to get back.”