BEREA, Ohio—Mike Pettine said the Browns will continue to use Travis Benjamin as the primary punt returner despite averaging just 0.7 yards a return. Benjamin has three returns for just two yards. He also has five fair catches.
Pettine said it’s too early to pull the plug on Benjamin.
“No, I think that we can be very situational with our punt returners. We haven’t given up on Travis,” Pettine said. “We want to see him kind of get it back and get going again.”
Pettine was asked if Benjamin has been slowed by his recovery from the ACL injury he sustained last season.
“I think it’s just too small of a sample size at this point because in his reps on offense, that hasn’t shown,” Pettine said. “He’s playing very well. I think just about every week he’s gotten behind the opponents secondary, so I don’t know if I would say the knee is necessarily a big factor there. I think it’s just too early to panic in that situation.”
Pettine said Leonhard is good at fielding the balls in short field situations.
“Depending on the circumstances of the game, if it’s a pooch punt situation, I think Jim Leonhard is one of the best punt catchers in the business,” Pettine said. “He’ll argue that he’s more of a punt returner, but he’s a guy who you can trust back there as well. We can trot some different combinations out there in the kick return and punt return.”
Jordan Poyer is listed as Benjamin’s back up on the punt returns with DB Jim Leonhard and Taylor Gabriel behind them.
Benjamin has been more productive on kickoff returns with four for 85 yards (21.3 avg.), including a long of 28 yards. WR Marlon Moore is listed as the first kickoff returner and he is averaging 32 yards a return.
Competition for Yount: The Browns signed LS Charley Hughlett to the practice squad on Tuesday and Pettine said he is in direct competition with LS Christian Yount for the snapping duties, including this week’s game with the Titans.
“We’ll rotate those guys in practice, and then I’ll rely on ‘Tabes’ (special teams coordinator Chris Tabor),” Pettine said. “We’ll talk about it at the end of the week if we want to make a move or not.”
Practice squad players can be added to the active roster at any time.
Pettine said he and Ray Farmer want competition at all positions.
“I just think it’s something that we need clarity on that situation. Christian’s a competitive guy, and he’s very serious about his job. We’re not going to hide from the fact that he struggled. He’ll be the first one to tell you. He knows he needs to get better, but at the same time we have to move forward and put the team in the best position to win. He’s done well here. He’s had his struggles of late, but that’s something that (General Manager) Ray (Farmer) and I talked about from the beginning and it’s been at nauseam about competition at all positions. That’s one that we’re not going to exclude. This is a normal part of our process.”
Bryant, Tate Limited: DL Desmond Bryant was listed on the pre-practice injury report as limited with a ‘glute’ injury. In addition, RB Ben Tate (knee) and WR Marlon Moore (illness) were listed as limited. The official injury report will come out later Wednesday afternoon.
Bryant and Tate were on the field taking part with their position coaches and players during the portion of practice open to the media.
Pettine said Tate had no setbacks and he’s going through the normal progression.
“That’s normal progression that he took individual (reps),” Pettine said. “He’ll take a good part of the team reps today. Then assuming things progress the way they should, he should be listed as full at some point – either tomorrow or Friday.”
Expecting Locker: Pettine said the Browns are expecting to face QB Jake Locker, who missed last week’s game with a wrist injury.
“We’re expected to play (Jake) Locker can make all the throws and can scramble.”
He practiced late last week and they were confident he was going to practice this week.
Locker said he took part in all parts of practice on Wednesday on the conference call with the Cleveland media.