BEREA, Ohio (AP) — One concussion was almost enough to convince Browns tight end Alex Smith to retire.
Smith returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since sustaining a concussion in a Sept. 16 game against Cincinnati. Smith was briefly hospitalized after taking a blow to the head following a catch in the fourth quarter against the Bengals. Smith said the head injury forced him to contemplate quitting the game.
"It definitely crosses your mind," he said. "But I kind of made my mind up that as long as the doctors say there's no risk in going back out there, if I'm not putting myself in any further harm to go back out there, then I felt comfortable going back out there. But if there was that small chance that something further could come of the injury then I might have to consider it."
Smith was prohibited from exercising for two weeks while he recovered. The 30-year-old resumed physical activities a week ago and was recently cleared to return to the field.
"It just took a little while to heal up," he said following practice Wednesday. "It was my first one so I didn't know how the whole protocol was supposed to go. But they said everybody's different. So it was just basically wait until I didn't have any more symptoms before I could get cleared."
While Smith was back, the winless Browns (0-5) were missing several other notable players as they prepared for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals (3-2).
Starting linebacker D'Qwell Jackson wasn't on the field after sustaining a concussion in Sunday's loss to the New York Giants. Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Jackson was at the team's facility and attended meetings. Jackson is the only player in the NFL with at least two sacks and two interceptions, and if Cleveland's defensive leader can't play, rookies L.J. Fort or Craig Robertson could get significant playing time.
The Browns were also missing wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), Travis Benjamin (hamstring) and Jordan Norwood (foot), who had nine catches against the Giants. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (lower leg) and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (sprained ankle) were also out and could miss Sunday's game.
Smith said the emphasis on players taking better care of themselves after sustaining a head injury led to him thinking about stepping away.
"Just hearing what's happening with all these guys that played in the past and all the things that are popping up, it definitely scares you," he said. "So you have no choice but to let it (retirement) cross your mind. ... You don't really know what's going on in your brain. You just want to be extra cautious especially with that type of injury."
Smith didn't fly back with the Browns from Cincinnati, but was driven home the following day.
He had three catches for 30 yards against the Bengals before he was injured. The Browns missed his blocking the past few weeks, but they may need Smith back as a pass catcher this week with three wide receivers nicked up and uncertain.
Smith said it was frustrating not being able to contribute while he was out as the Browns dropped three straight games, extending their losing streak to 11 dating to last season. It was the Bengals who knocked him out and now he's coming back to face them again.
"That's fitting, huh?" he said. "Good time to come back. Hopefully we can get this win and make it all the better."
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