Browns starting center Nick Harris likely out for season due to knee injury

Browns starting center Nick Harris will likely need season-ending surgery on his right knee for an injury suffered in Friday night’s 23-14 preseason-opening victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in TIAA Bank Stadium, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said.

Harris underwent an MRI on Saturday after going down on the game's second play. Bull rushed by Jaguars defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, Harris was carted to the locker room.

"We're still gathering ... to make sure that we have all the information before we come to that conclusion," Stefanski said Saturday in reference to surgery for Harris.

"All these injuries stink. You don't like anybody to get injured. Nick certainly is a guy that's been working so hard this offseason. Really hoping that it's not a season-long thing because the kid just works so hard."

Harris was replaced by Ethan Pocic, signed to a one-year $1.187 million contract in March. The Browns released JC Tretter, their starter for the past five seasons, in a cost-saving move on March 15 and handed the job to Harris, a fifth-round pick out of the University of Washington in 2020.

ON NOTICE: These 22 first-round draft picks are running out of chances

NEW ERA: Trey Lance shows why 49ers are ready to move on from Garoppolo

Cleveland Browns center Nick Harris (53) is carted off the field during the first quarter of a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

President of the NFL Players Association, Tretter, 31, remains an unsigned free agent. Stefanski would not comment on potential roster moves being handled by general manager Andrew Berry and his staff. Brock Hoffman, 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds, an undrafted rookie from Virginia Tech, is the only other center on the training camp roster.

"I won't comment on roster-type things, that's Andrew and his crew," Stefanski said when asked specifically about Tretter. "I want to make note that Ethan did a nice job and he's done a nice job since April. Excited about what he can bring to the table."

Pocic may be their best option, especially if the Browns are reserving salary cap space to bring in another starting quarterback if Deshaun Watson is suspended for the season.

Pocic, 27, a second-round pick of the Seahawks in 2017 out of LSU, started 40 of his 57 games played in Seattle. He started 10 of his 13 games in 2021 and ranked 15th among 39 qualifying centers graded by Tretter was sixth in those rankings.

"He's a physical football player. He's a big center; he's got really good size," Stefanski said of Pocic, 6-6 and 320 pounds. "He's played a lot of football in his career. For us it's just getting him good exposure to what we do, which we've been doing since April. He's done a nice job with [offensive line] coach [Bill] Callahan and coach [Scott] Peters in understanding our techniques. I really think we have a guy who has done that in some big moments."

Now listed at 6-foot-1 and 293 pounds, Harris used the offseason to gain strength, but retained his athleticism to pull and move on screens.

Last season, the Browns learned how disruptive offensive line injuries could be to the attack. They allowed 49 sacks after giving up 26 in 2020, when they made their first playoff appearance since 2002 and won their first postseason game since Jan. 1, 1995. Right tackle Jack Conklin, left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and swing tackle Chris Hubbard missed games with injuries and Tretter landed on the COVID-19 list.

Pocic will join an offensive line that is one of the Browns' strongest position groups. Left guard Joel Bitonio and right guard Wyatt Teller are Pro Bowlers, Bitonio and Conklin have been named All-Pro.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cleveland Browns Nick Harris likely to miss season due to knee injury