BEREA – It's now or never.
By injuring his calf muscle early in training camp, Chaun Thompson gave a huge head start to second-round draft choice D'Qwell Jackson in the battle for the inside linebacker position opposite of Andra Davis.
And he knows it.
That's why this week's preseason game against the Bills is important for Thompson.
"It's very important," Thompson said. "I haven't played in a game yet and I have some catching up to do.
"I'm just trying to catch up with everyone," he said. "I'm just fighting hard to do my part."
Thompson is coming off of his best season in his three year NFL career. He started at outside linebacker and had 102 tackles, including five sacks and nine tackles for loss. The Browns chose to let Ben Taylor leave as an unrestricted free agent after starting all 16 games last year.
To complicate matters for Thompson, he was switched from the outside to the inside in the off-season. Romeo Crennel is anxious to find out if Thompson can handle the role.
Part of the thinking is Thompson could give the Browns a pass rush from the inside with his speed.
"We're going to find out this week because he hasn't played in two weeks," Crennel said.
Thompson said it didn't bother him to be moved to another position.
"I would like stability but if the coach thinks enough about me that I can do it, I want to do it."
Thompson was on the field with the first team in practice on Tuesday.
"I was just in and out in certain situations," he said. "It wasn't really the first team. I just feel pretty good and want to get in a game because I haven't been in one yet."
Crennel was asked if Thompson would get the start over Jackson against the Bills.
"We haven't decided yet who will start," Crennel said.
Thompson says he's not concerned with the competition with Jackson as it will only make both players better and ultimately help the Browns win. Thompson knows that Jackson is a quality player after playing at Maryland.
"He played against a lot of good competition," Thompson said. "I have to do the little things and play hard at all times."
Thompson said he's fine with whatever role he's called upon.
"I want to do what needs to be done to help us win," he said. "Whether I'm a backup, on special teams or whatever, I just want to help us win."
Even though Thompson has three years experience in the NFL, he only has one year in the 3-4 defense.
"I think your experience in the system really helps the players," Crennel said. "Hopefully, they'll be real good, but you never know until you see them in games and how they react when they count.
"They have to know and produce when it counts and the notch is turned up."