July 30, 2014

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Browns punter Reggie Hodges tears Achilles, gone for the season

BEREA — Browns punter Reggie Hodges’ season is over before it even began.

Browns punter Reggie Hodges is in obvious pain Tuesday as he gets help after suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon tear. (CT photo by David Richard.)

Browns punter Reggie Hodges is in obvious pain Tuesday as he gets help after suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon tear. (CT photo by David Richard.)

Hodges suffered a torn left Achilles tendon Tuesday morning, crumbling to the grass as soon as he planted his non-kicking foot in the end zone during a special teams drill.

The fifth-year pro — and only punter on Cleveland’s 90-man training camp roster — was unable to put any weight on his left leg and had to be removed from the field on a cart.

“I obviously feel terrible for Reggie because he’s a good man and he’s a big part of our team,” long snapper Ryan Pontbriand said. “Everyone has such respect for him that we rushed over as soon as it happened.

“Having worked with him for the last couple of years, I couldn’t concentrate the rest of the (practice) period. Our thoughts are with him.”

A visibly upset Hodges, who averaged a career-high 43.9 yards on 78 punts last season, was driven into the field house and examined by Browns team doctor Mark Schickendantz.

Subsequent medical tests confirmed the Achilles injury, according to Cleveland team president Mike Holmgren. The injury will require reconstructive surgery and force Hodges onto season-ending injured reserve. A typical recovery period for the procedure is six to nine months.

“I saw what happened. He just reached up and the snap was about head high,” coach Pat Shurmur said in disbelief. “It was something he’s done a million times.

“With an injury like that, you kind of know right away. I think Reggie did because he was under distress when I spoke with him.”

Hodges joined the Browns in the middle of the 2009 season as a fill-in for injured punter and Bay Village native Dave Zastudil. He had bounced between St. Louis, Philadelphia, the New York Jets and Tennessee during his three previous NFL seasons, playing just 24 games.

A devoutly religious man, the Ball State product earned his first multiyear contract last winter, and was the first Cleveland player to report to camp when the league-wide lockout ended July 26.

Following his diagnosis, Hodges tweeted, “(I’m) extremely humbled by all the well wishes, thank you! God has always been faithful.”

“Reggie is very valuable to us, and not just because he’s the only punter we have in camp,” said Pontbriand, who spent much of the two-and-a-half-hour session working with Hodges on a distant field.

“As punters, kickers and snappers, we’re by ourselves a lot. It’s almost like a family with him, me and Phil (Dawson). You never want to see anything bad happen to anyone in your family.”

Shurmur said the Browns would hold tryouts for Hodges’ replacement today in Berea, but there are few veterans on the market beyond ex-Redskins punter Josh Bidwell and Zastudil.

Hodges also served as Dawson’s holder on field goals and extra points, further complicating the situation.

“We’re going to look for the best possible replacement we can,” Shurmur said. “We’ll keep hunting and pushing for the right guy, but I don’t have any specific names yet. We’re just beginning to round up a list. I’m sure we’ll know more tomorrow.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.