BEREA, Ohio (AP)As the severe burns on David Njoku’s face and hands continue to heal, Cleveland’s tight end feels fortunate. He knows things could be so much worse.
“I’m still breathing,” he said. “I still got my vision and everything, I mentally feel great.”
Njoku spoke Friday for the first time since he sustained burns in an accident at home on Sept. 29, two days before the Browns played Baltimore. Despite his serious injuries and being in extreme pain, Njoku played and had a team-high six catches.
The 27-year-old Njoku was reluctant to offer details about the incident.
“It was a bonfire accident,” he said. “Trying to have a nice little chill Friday, ended up exploding when I lit it up. So yeah, it happens.”
Njoku said his eyes were open when he was hit by the fireball.
“So I saw everything and I really should have been blinded,” he said, sitting in front of his locker. “So luckily I’m not.”
Njoku said everything happened so quickly, that it was almost impossible for him to process things.
“Shockingly, I’m not trying to sound like a freak, but it was kind of a rush,” he said. “Like that adrenaline surge. It was cool, but obviously we have to be smarter and I’m glad that nothing drastic happened.”
On Thursday, Njoku posted photos on Instagram of his injuries, hoping his recovery might help others.
“I’ve been getting a lot of messages from other burn victims and nurses that have burn victims, and they were telling me how everybody feels embarrassed to show whatever,” he said. “So I wanted just to come out forth and show myself so everyone feels a little bit better about themselves. End of the day, things heal.”
Njoku’s ability to tolerate the pain and play impressed his teammates.
“Says a lot about him,” said wide receiver Amari Cooper. “Showed a lot of toughness on his part, 100%. There are a lot of players who definitely would not have played with that happening to them less than 48 hours before the game and for good reason.
“I was actually surprised when he played as well. But it says a lot about his toughness.”
Njoku sounded as if he never considered not playing.
He arrived at Cleveland Browns Stadium for the game against the Ravens wearing a mask to hide his injuries and then wore a mask during warmups. Njoku, a first-round draft pick in 2017 from Miami, left without speaking to reporters afterward.
Although he missed three practices this week, he was on the field Friday and intends to play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
“The way I see it, all the pain and sufferings from training in the offseason is far worse than any of this,” he said. “We really push ourselves a lot to strive to be great. So a little burn isn’t going to stop me.”
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