Browns kicker Hopkins 'unlikely' to play against Texans in playoff game because of hamstring injury

Cleveland Browns place-kicker Dustin Hopkins (7) kicks a field goal in the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears in Cleveland, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Dustin Hopkins couldn’t finish Cleveland’s last game against Houston. The kicker won’t even start the next one.

Hopkins is expected to sit out Saturday’s wild-card playoff game against the Texans with a hamstring injury that hasn’t healed since he hurt it while chasing a returner in Cleveland’s win over the Texans on Dec. 24.

Coach Kevin Stefanksi said Tuesday that it was “unlikely” Hopkins will play. Hopkins, who was one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers all season, missed the final two regular-season games with the injury.

Stefanski said Hopkins “is progressing, but I don’t think he’ll be ready for this week.”

Hopkins injured his left, non-kicking leg while trying to run down Houston’s Dameon Pierce, who returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. The Browns held off from placing him on injured reserve.

While Hopkins got hurt hustling, Stefanski said it would be hard to discourage any player in a similar situation.

“It’s always that fine line, where you want to make a play for the team, you want to hustle, but you also don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way,” he said. “So those are things we talk about, but you can’t deny that our guys have great effort out there.”

Losing Hopkins is a significant blow to the Browns. He’s been one of Cleveland’s most valuable players this season.

Hopkins is 33 of 36 on field-goal tries and made all eight attempts beyond 50 yards. Acquired just before the season in a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers, he’s also made four game-winning kicks.

With Hopkins out, Riley Patterson will handle kicking duties for the Browns (11-6), who signed him to their practice squad on Dec. 25. Three days later, he made a 33-yard field goal as Cleveland clinched a playoff spot with a win over the New York Jets.

“I feel terrible for Dustin,” Patterson said. “He has been amazing this year and could have very easily have gone to the Pro Bowl. I feel bad for him. I’m just here to fill in and help out any way that I can. So that’s my main focus right now.”

Patterson is 6 of 7 on extra points with Cleveland. He played in 13 games for Detroit, making 15 of 17 field goals and 35 of 37 PATs before being released.

Patterson kicked in two playoff games last season for Jacksonville and went 3 of 3 on field goals and 4 of 4 on extra points.

The 24-year-old said it was difficult being let go by the Lions, but he is grateful to land on a Browns team with high expectations.

“It’s been enjoyable,” Patterson said. “I was frustrated leaving Detroit, for sure, because I felt like I was a part of that team there. These guys have been so welcoming to me. Hopping on to a really great team with a bunch of really great guys in a fun locker room.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more, so I feel like I’m a part of this team. I’m ready to help out with whatever they need, so I’m here.”

Several other Browns players were kept out of practice Tuesday, including wide receiver Amari Cooper, who set a franchise record with 265 yards against the Texans last month. Cooper hurt his heel against the Texans and sat out the past two weeks.

Star defensive end Myles Garrett wasn’t at practice for personal reasons.


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl