BEREA, Ohio--This was supposed to be his year.
And it might still be.
After playing a reserve role for the Browns in his first four seasons, this was supposed to be the year John Hughes stepped into the starting lineup. However, a family matter has caused to miss the better part of the past two weeks, including the first preseason game with the Packers. Hughes returned to Berea Tuesday and is ready to get back on the field.
"It was just a personal family matter I had going on, Hughes said before Tuesday's practice. "Everything is good now. I'm back 100 percent now."
Hughes--who was not with the team since Aug. 2-- said the matter never caused him to consider retirement from football or anything on that line. Hughes said he appreciated all the support he received from his teammates, Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson with regards to being gone.
"I got a lot of texts from my teammates and it was great the support they gave me," he said. "I appreciated them being there for me."
Hughes could still return to the starting rotation--and is still listed as the starter on the depth chart-- within the ranks at defensive end, but he will have some ground to make up. Desmond Bryant was projected to be one of the starting defensive ends and he was lost for the season with a pectoral injury. Armonty Bryant is facing a four-game suspension to start the season for violating the NFL's substance abuse program.
Hue Jackson was glad to have Hughes back.
“It’s exciting to have him back," Jackson said. "Obviously, he’s been with us through all of the offseason. Obviously, there is some catching up to do but he’s been in the system, was there in OTAs and around the coaches. Hopefully, he can get back up to speed quickly.”
The Browns signed veteran free agent Nick Hayden to bolster the end position. Rookie Emmanuel Ogbah was switched form outside linebacker to defensive end because of Desmond Bryant's injury and played well in his first preseason game, garnering a sack. Fellow rookie Carl Nassib also showed potential and tallied the other sack. Xavier Cooper also has showed some potential on the outside. Jamie Meder, who has predominantly been at nose tackle. lined up with the first team defense at end on Monday.
Hughes spent the start of Tuesday's practice with the trainers on the stationary bike. He's confident he will be able to get back on the field quickly, despite missing time.
"It's just like riding a bike, for the most part," Hughes said."I have to get back into the routine of things.
"A lot of it is just getting back on the field and being around my teammates," he said. "They'll help me with that. That's why I couldn't wait to get back with my teammates."
Hughes, 27, is in his fifth season with the Browns after being drafted in the third-round (87th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft. In his first four seasons, Hughes has started just 10 games, despite playing in 52 games. He has 123 tackles, including 5.5 sacks, 5 passes broken up and two fumble recoveries. In 16 games with three starts in 2015, Hughes had 24 tackles with 1.5 sacks. Hughes had three sacks as a rookie in 2012.
Hughes said he wasn't worried about the time he missed.
"Not too much, The most anxiety was just getting back into the building," Hughes said. "I am really excited to get back and get into the flow of things."