The season-ending knee injury that Browns running back Nick Chubb sustained on Monday night was so horrific that ESPN declined to show the replay. And online, early reports indicated a total dislocation, which could have been career-threatening.
Chubb's reality is far more optimistic, sources say, after a battery of tests throughout the week. While Chubb was placed on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season, the very real possibility exists that he can return to 100% health and play again.
Sources say tests showed Chubb suffered a torn MCL, which will be surgically repaired next week. While his ACL did sustain some damage, it was not fully torn.
There is still a chance, however, that Chubb must undergo full ACL reconstruction. If the surgeon examines the knee during surgery and determines there is enough damage done, a complete repair would be necessary. But going into the surgery, even with all the damage in the knee, it's not a given.
In addition, Chubb did not dislocate his kneecap and the other ligaments appear intact, sources say. Doctors may also repair Chubb's knee using two separate surgeries, which would be common given the injury.
Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, like many on Monday night, immediately thought about Chubb's college injury in 2015 -- a dislocated kneecap, plus a torn PCL, MCL and LCL.
"Once we saw the replay and exactly what happened, just a lot of flashbacks to the previous one he had in college," Watson said on Sept. 18 after the Browns' 26-22 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Except this injury doesn't appear to be as traumatic as the one Chubb endured at the University of Georgia.
To be sure, the four-time Pro Bowler faces months of recovery. But being ready for next season is within the realm of possibility.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski spoke for everyone when he called Chubb "a great football player, but an even better person," a refrain that echoed through the Cleveland locker room.
"We will support him every step along the way," Stefanski said this past week.
Cleveland will now rely on Jerome Ford as its starting RB, and he impressed quickly on Monday with 106 yards on 16 carries. The Browns also signed old friend Kareem Hunt, who will be active for Sunday's game against the Titans and serve as Ford's backup.
"I think it's great," Hunt told reporters this week. "Jerome's very young. He's talented, got a lot of speed and he's made a big jump. He's just growing and getting better. So, I'm excited to see us paired together, how we can wear down defenses and break runs."