CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Olivier Vernon, the Browns defensive end who’d come on strong in the second half of this season and who was second on the team in sacks with nine, was lost for the playoff run after rupturing his achilles during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 24-22 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s a huge blow for the Browns, who face the Steelers again in the Wild Card on Sunday, as well as for Vernon, who’s headed to free agency after this season but who now will undergo surgery and be facing a long recovery.
Vernon was one of the veterans who helped carry the Browns defense while fellow defensive end Myles Garrett was out for two games with Covid-19.
“He stepped up his game,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said during Monday’s zoom meeting. “A bunch of guys have done that, and ‘OV’ is a great example of that. We were counting on him, we needed him, and he stepped up.”
Adrian Clayborn will be one of the players who will replace Vernon, but Stefanski says it will be tough to replace Olivier’s leadership.
“He’s a team leader for this football team in how he plays,” Stefanski said. “’OV’ doesn’t say much but when he talks the guys listen. Certainly hard to replace. I don’t know that you replace any player, but we need guys to step up.”
Vernon had a sack in the second quarter on Sunday, before going down early in the fourth quarter.