Cleveland Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert told coaches that he would not return to the game on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Lauren Brill of WEWS ABC in Cleveland. Gilbert, a 2014 first-round pick, has found himself completely out of the picture in the secondary almost immediately into his second season.
Gilbert has since refuted the report, saying he never refused to go into the game on defense, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
It's unclear why Gilbert would have told coaches he wouldn't go back in, but he did get some playing time in the game. He has had a stunning lack of playing time this season and didn't factor much into the picture even with the injuries at cornerback. Starting corners Joe Haden and Tramon Williams both missed Sunday's game with concussions, while rookie Charles Gaines was inactive while expecting his child to be born.
That left Pierre Desir, K'Waun Williams, Johnson Bademosi and Gilbert as the only healthy cornerbacks, but safety Tashaun Gipson was moved to cornerback to play ahead of Gilbert.
Gilbert played just 51 snaps this season going into Sunday's game. Earlier in the season, there were questions about Gilbert's desire to improve as a player and his commitment to the NFL, though head coach Mike Pettine gave few reasons for his lack of playing time when asked.
In two seasons, Gilbert has played in 22 games and has 39 tackles, an interception, eight passes defensed and a defensive touchdown.
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SB Nation presents: A timeline of the Browns' dysfunctional Week 17