Missouri senior safety Cortland Browning returned to practice on schedule Tuesday, three months after surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury in his right foot.
“It felt pretty good to be back out here with the team and make progress toward winning that national championship that we want,” Browning said. “Team chemistry is important, so I’m glad to be back.”
Browning suffered the Lisfranc fracture, which was surgically repaired with a screw in December, during practice a few days before the Tigers’ SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
He was a limited participant in practice — wearing a red, non-contact pullover — and admitted that he’s not 100 percent yet, but Browning expects to be fully healthy by summer camp.
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“I’m a little rusty,” Browning said. “If anybody stays off for a couple months, it’s something to come back. But when the time comes, I’ll be ready.”
Browning is the heir apparent to three-year starter Braylon Webb at strong safety.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Browning said. “I used to live with (Webb). I’ve been watching him and everybody that’s been before him.”
Sophomore Anthony Sherrils has been Missouri’s starter at the position during Browning’s recovery.
While Browning couldn’t work with his teammates, he used the downtime to get better in other ways.
“That time off, I just realized, you can’t take it for granted, most importantly,” Browning said. “I watched a lot of film on other schools.”
He said he studied former Alabama safety Landon Collins “and other greats from other universities.”
“I’m just learning from what they do and trying to incorporate it into my game,” said Browning, a 2011 graduate of Lee High School in Tyler, Texas.
He originally was recruited by new Missouri defensive coordinator Barry Odom when he was the safeties coach on Pinkel’s staff before going to Memphis for three years as defensive coordinator.
Browning said former Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Steckel, who became Missouri State’s head coach in December, gave Odom a seal of approval.
“Coach Stec thought it was a good thing for us,” Browning said. “Coach Stec is a good man, so his word counts, right?”
Browning also said he’s enjoyed working with new safeties coach Ryan Walters, who replaced Alex Grinch after he left for the defensive coordinator position at Washington State.
Resuming on-field activities should help Browning emerge as a leader for the back end of Missouri’s defense during the final few weeks of spring practice.
“It’s my last go-round and people are looking up to me,” Browning said. “We’re just a team and I’m going to grind it out. Hopefully, people follow.”