BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Receiver Travis Benjamin is the odds on favorite to replace Josh Cribbs returning punt and kickoffs this season.
He has some big shoes to fill too.
“This is the NFL, guys come and guys go,” Benjamin said. “Josh was a great person and great mentor to me. He taught me a lot of things. I can just go into this upcoming season and fill the shoes where he left off.”
Cribbs, who signed with Oakland this offseason, is tied with Leon Washington for the most career kickoff returns for touchdowns (8) in NFL history.
In 8 seasons with the Browns, Cribbs set franchise records for the most career kickoff return yards (8,837), career combined kickoff and punt return yards (10,534), career all-purpose yards (12,343), kickoff return yards in a single season (1,809 in 2007), kickoff return touchdowns in a single season: (3 in 2009), all-purpose yards in a single season (2,510 in 2009) and career combined kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns (11).
“Cleveland special teams have been great all these years, so I got the ability to be one of the top returners,” Benjamin said.
At 5-10, 175-pounds, Benjamin doesn’t exactly overwhelm anyone with his size, which some consider to be a liability, but it’s his speed that is dangerous.
“It’s just being a ball player, knowing the things that you can and cannot do,” Benjamin said. “Knowing that my speed will allow me to not to get hit, just maintaining focus on the field. Knowing your environment around you.”
Benjamin’s primary competition for the return gig – Johnson Bademosi and speedster Dion Lewis.
Lewis flashed his speed on a few screens Saturday and could provide the Browns with a solid change of pace back behind Trent Richardson.
Dueling Safeties – Bademosi is also in a head to head competition with Tashaun Gipson for a starting job at free safety next to T.J. Ward.
Right now it’s Gipson getting the reps with the first team defense and he plans on keeping it that way.
“If somebody wants to take this spot they’re really going to have to work for it,” Gipson said. “Right now I’m thinking about my role in this defense, and I continue to do what coach Horton and coach Lou ask me to do. It’s a competition, that’s what camp’s about, but at the same time I feel like it’s my spot.”
Bademosi, who popped on film on special teams as a rookie, was moved form corner to safety this offseason by new defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
“At safety you have to have a wider perspective of the field,” Bademosi said. “At corner you have to know everything that’s going on, but at safety you have to verbalize it, and actually say it and tell guys. It’s a transition going from corner to safety, and you definitely have to learn, but corner is mentally challenging as well.”
No Singing In The Rain – The Browns moved practice indoors because it rained into the early afternoon Saturday. The rain stopped before practice began and the sun eventually came out but Chudzinski isn’t second guessing the decision.
“I was hoping to get out,” Chudzinski said. “When I came in here, early in the morning, it was drizzling, and I saw the forecast for the day. We had a lot of wetness on the field. So, it was a combination of the forecast and the fields all being wet and not wanting to tear those up.”
Despite the cramped field house, which is only big enough to accommodate 70 yards of field, Chudzinski said practice wasn’t negatively affected by moving indoors.
“It doesn’t change as much,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously, we didn’t go full pads. For the first day of full pads, I didn’t want to be inside, on the turf. We will be full pads tomorrow. It’s just a tighter space that we have to work with in here, but we were able to get a lot done.”
Comparing Camps – There’s no such thing as an easier training camp in the NFL – no matter who the head coach is.
Much has been made about the new up tempo, faster pace at practice under head coach Rob Chudzinski but left tackle Joe Thomas said Saturday that they’re all tough – regardless of who the coach is.
“I can’t say I haven’t ever come out here and said, ‘boy this was not intense training camp’ or anything like that,” Thomas said. “I think sometimes people get a perception depending on the coach’s demeanor. For some reason people thought Romeo [Crennel] had easy training camps, but they were just as hard as [Eric] Mangini’s. It was just that he had an easygoing temperament in front of people, so I wouldn’t say anything’s more intense [this year].”
Thomas would know. He’s entering his 7th season and has already played for Crennel, Mangini, Pat Shurmur and now Chudzinski.
Injury Update – Defensive tackle Phil Taylor and tight end Kellen Davis practiced Saturday after missing the first 2 days of training camp due to injury.
Taylor was resting a strained calf muscle while Davis had a sprained knee. Both participated in individual drills.
Fullback Brock Bolen, who was signed last week, did not practice due to a calf strain Saturday.
Offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, who walked off the field with trainers Friday, has a sprained ankle. Chudzinski said that he, “will probably be a couple of weeks.”
Up Next – The Browns will practice in pads again Sunday starting at 4. Gates open for fans at 3 – weather permitting.
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