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Mack Wilson: “I wanted to quit at times”

Browns linebacker admits that trying 2020 season had him thinking of an early retirement.

Cleveland Browns Training Camp Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The 2020 season may have been a success for the Cleveland Browns, but it was a rough go for second-year linebacker Mack Wilson.

Things started off poorly on the first day of padded practices in training camp when Wilson hit running back Nick Chubb during a drill, leaving Chubb with a concussion.

A day later, Wilson suffered a knee injury that looked at first to be season-ending. While it ultimately was diagnosed as a hyperextension, the injury still sidelined Wilson for almost five weeks and he did not return to the lineup until the Week 3 game against Washington.

Wilson would go on to play the rest of the season, starting eight games, but finished with just 39 tackles and posted an overall grade of 41.9 from Pro Football Focus - the third-worst grade among the defense.

It was a trying season from start to finish, one that Wilson said left him contemplating retirement, according to a team-provided transcript of his media appearance on Friday:

“After the season, I had time to think to myself about all of the things I went through personally last season with injuries and stuff like that. I never felt like I was myself. I was down. I wanted to quit at times, but I found a way to keep myself motivated to get through last season.

“Mentally, we go through a lot as football players. When I got hurt, it was one of my worst moments in my life. Just coming back, I never felt like I was myself. I did not feel like I was producing on the field, I could not move like I wanted to. I was missing plays that I knew I should make. I was in a dark place. I was able to climb back because that is what true fighters do. I am happy where I am at right now, but there is still work to do.”

Wilson was able to start turning things around in the offseason when learned he would be a father for the first time.

It is still early in training camp, but Wilson has reportedly been playing better, with one highlight being an interception of quarterback Baker Mayfield on Tuesday.

The Browns brought in some reinforcements at the linebacker position during the offseason with the signing of free agent Anthony Walker, who is currently out with a knee injury, and the drafting of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who was just activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday, so Mack is going to be in a battle to earn a roster spot.

But now that he is healthy and in a better place mentally, he at least has the opportunity to show the coaching staff that last season was just an aberration.