CLEVELAND - All that stands between Browns rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo and his regular-season debut is a nod of approval from a doctor.
Mingo has passed each physical test administered to him by physicians since suffering a lung contusion in a preseason game against the Detroit Lions Aug. 15. He was cleared to participate in team drills Wednesday and all signs indicate he might be active Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
"It's very exciting," Mingo said before practice Wednesday. "I watched last week and I just wanted to get out on the field. Now it looks like I can do that."
Mingo's injury was and still is a mystery. Lung contusions are usually the result of a physical strike to the body, similar to what happens to victims of car accidents. The injury is believed to have happened from the physical exertion of running the field on kick coverage.
Mingo remained in the game for a short time before being taken to the Cleveland Clinic, where he remained two nights for observation. He complained of shortness of breath and also coughed up blood on the field before being taken to the clinic.
Since then Mingo has undergone a battery of physical tests, including MRIs. He was involved in individual drills in prior weeks but avoided the more physical nature of team drills.
The worst part of rehabilitation for Mingo was watching. He said all along that he felt fine and was ready to go.
"It was tough sitting there and watching (Sunday's game against the Dolphins)," Mingo said. "You want to be out there and help the team win. I felt we could have done that, but we fell short."
Prior to the injury, the plan was to use Mingo's superior speed on coverage units and on nickel downs. It hasn't been established how expansive his role will be if he plays Sunday in Baltimore.
The pass rush looked decent against the Dolphins. Coach Rob Chudzinski has to be anxious to see what Mingo can bring to the defense.
"He'll be one of the guys we can use like we did in the preseason as an outside backer in base and an outside rusher in sub," Chudzinski said. "I think we'll get a pretty good rotation with that group. They all have something to bring to the table. That's a strength of ours."
Mingo flashed some of his pass-rushing skills against the St. Louis Rams in the first preseason game. His sprinter's speed has been well advertised, but he also showed a strong inside power move.
"I feel I bring a lot to the team," Mingo said. "The coaches can use me in different ways. I'm ready to get it done."
The first step Mingo will have to pass Sunday is getting by the first contact. He's coming off an unusual injury that occurred without an explanation.
"I'm just ready to play," Mingo said. "Hit, no hit, tackle, sack - it doesn't matter. I'm just ready to get back on the field."
That's the big question. Can Mingo return to action one month after suffering a mysterious injury?
"It's up to the coaches," Mingo said. "If I'm up and running this weekend and I'm practicing well and they say I can help the team win, then hopefully they'll let me play."