Browns’ Nick Chubb to undergo season-ending surgery after gruesome knee injury in latest blow to NFL RBs

Nick Chubb needs season-ending knee surgery after suffering a gruesome injury in Monday night’s game, Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Tuesday.

The confirmation came the morning after the star running back was carted off the field at Pittsburgh’s Acrisure Stadium following a direct hit to his left knee by Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

ABC opted not to show a replay of the collision, but the crowd groaned in unison after the video aired at the stadium. Stefanski suggested the team may not know exactly what Chubb injured in his knee until he undergoes the operation.

It’s the same knee in which Chubb suffered a dislocation, cartilage damage and tears to his MCL, PCL and LCL nearly eight years ago as a college standout with Georgia.

It’s also the latest injury to a big-name running back two weeks into an NFL season that followed months of offseason drama involving some of the biggest stars at the position.

Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 1. Dobbins, who has dealt with knee injuries the past two seasons, missed much of the summer, which may have been at least somewhat related to his contract situation.

Austin Ekeler, who pursued trade options in the offseason before slightly restructuring his deal with the Chargers, missed Week 2 with an ankle injury, while Aaron Jones of the Packers was out with a hamstring ailment.

And the Giants’ Saquon Barkley suffered a sprained ankle in Week 2 that could lead to a multi-week absence. Barkley is playing on a revised franchise tag after failing to reach a long-term agreement with the Giants.

The injuries offer an unfortunate reminder why the NFL’s top running backs have been so frustrated with the diminished market and lack of job security for their position, which is among the sport’s most volatile. Many teams prioritize other positions when allocating cap space and rely on running backs on rookie deals or use multi-back committees.

The Raiders’ Josh Jacobs and the Cowboys’ Tony Pollard didn’t receive long-term contracts after being franchise tagged in the offseason, while the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor unsuccessfully sought a trade before entering the final year of his rookie deal. The biggest payday for a running back in the offseason went to Miles Sanders, who got a four-year, $25.4 million pact from the Panthers.

Chubb, 27, signed a three-year, $36.6 million extension with the Browns in 2021. Next year is the final one on his deal, but much of the guaranteed money will have already been paid out through this season.

“The biggest thing is that we’re the only position that our production hurts us the most,” Chubb said in July, according to The Athletic. “If we go out there and run for 2,000 yards with so many carries, the next year they’re going to say you’re probably worn down.”

The Browns now face the unenviable challenge of replacing Chubb, who rushed for at least 996 yards and eight touchdowns in each of the past five seasons while averaging at least 5.0 yards per carry every year.

Jerome Ford ran for 106 yards and caught a touchdown in Monday’s 26-22 loss to the Steelers, while Pierre Strong had a rushing touchdown. Kareem Hunt, a former NFL rushing champion who formed a one-two running back tandem with Chubb the past four years, is currently a free agent.

The Browns are looking into adding another running back, according to Stefanski, who said it will take more than one player to fill Chubb’s void.

“You don’t replace Nick Chubb,” Stefanski said. “You just don’t do that.”