BEREA, Ohio — After being away from the team for an extended period of time, defensive end Takkarist McKinley returned to CrossCountry Mortgage Campus in Berea and rejoined his team ahead of Tuesday's practice.
McKinley had dealt with illness early in training camp, leaving the session on July 30. He returned to the fields the next day but left early with a trainer, seemingly still ill. When players returned from a day off on Aug. 2, McKinley was ruled out of practice again due to illness.
On Aug. 6, head coach Kevin Stefanski said McKinley wouldn't practice after being excused for a "personal reason," but was expected to be back. With no real time frame for his return, McKinley has been away from the team for the past three weeks.
But on Tuesday, the defensive end was spotted on the field with his teammates for the initial walk-throughs ahead of practice. He left the field after walk-throughs were over.
Stefanski said after practice that McKinley has been back with the team for a few days and added he's "doing well," expecting him to be practicing with the team soon.
"He’s in a good place ready to go," Stefanski said on McKinley's spirits.
Safety John Johnson III said that he's excited to have McKinley back with the team after his personal leave.
“It's awesome. He came in with me in this whole free-agency class, so it was good to have our team back strong," Johnson said. "Hopefully whatever he's dealing with is done, he can get to work, but it's good to have him out here.”
McKinley agreed to a one-year deal with the Browns in March.
Selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the No. 26 overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, McKinley recorded 79 total tackles, 17.5 sacks, two passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
While a great addition for depth, McKinley has struggled with injuries and played in just four games with Atlanta before being released.
McKinley was claimed by the Bengals and then the 49ers in November 2020, but was unable to pass physicals due to a lingering groin injury. He was later claimed by the Raiders and placed on injured reserve, and although he was able to practice with the team in December, he was not activated from IR.
In Cleveland, McKinley is expected to see a rotational role on the defensive line, bringing a drive his teammates are excited to see.
"That spark, his game, speaks for itself. He's a high-motor guy, so it's definitely good to have him back out here with us,” Johnson said.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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