Heiden Back; Rucker Ready to Compete

Fred Greetham has some news and notes from this morning's practice, including an update on the TE position.

Berea — He's no longer in a red jersey — and he's glad.

Steve Heiden suffered a torn ACL injury to his right knee against the Eagles in the 15th game of last season. He was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 17.

He caught a pass from Derek Anderson over the middle as he got back in the scrimmaging.

"Getting that first smack with no leg pain was good," Heiden said.

Considering the surgery was in late December, an ACL is generally a nine-month recovery. Heiden's return on Aug. 4 is maybe a month or two early.

"It's not a success story yet. I've only had one practice."

Heiden said he never thought he wouldn't return.

"To be done playing was not in my thought process," Heiden said. "I just wanted to get the surgery done and get on with the rehab process."

Heiden has been a solid contributor, particularly as a blocker in his 11-year career. He seems to be the type of tight end that fits what Eric Mangini is trying to do.

He caught 23 passes for 249 yards. In his career, Heiden has 191 receptions for 1,611 yards with 13 touchdowns.

"I'm excited to get him back,"  Mangini said. "He's worked very hard to get back into it. He is an effective blocker, but also has good hands."

Mangini said that he first learned about Heiden first hand when he scored a touchdown against the Patriots when Mangini was their defensive coordinator.

"I didn't even know who he was then," he said. "By the end of the game, I certainly did."

The Browns signed Robert Royal as an unrestricted free agent to compete with Martin Rucker and Heiden. The Browns are hoping the trio can off-set the loss of Kellen Winslow.

"We're at the beginning stages of trying to build something," Heiden said. "I can't begin to speculate on how (the tight ends) will be used."

Rucker was glad to see Heiden back on the field.

"He looked good out there."

Rucker is in his second year after being a fourth-round draft choice in 2008. He missed six weeks with an injury last season and was never able to find his groove. He appeared in five games, including one start. He caught just two passes for 17 yards.

He hopes that all changes in 2009.

"We're all competing for the tight end job," Rucker said. "Anytime you get the opportunity to play football, you want to give it everything you got."

Rucker is viewed more as a pass-receiving tight end than a blocker. His playing time might be tied to his ability to block.

"Last year, I missed six weeks and was behind for the rest of the season," he said. "Everything is a lot slower this year."

Davis Catches Mangini's Eye: Rookie RB James Davis has definitely caught the attention of Mangini. The sixth-round draft choice has shown quick feet since his arrival and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

"It's hard to get noticed out of those 80 players," Mangini said. "You notice the first one down the field."

Mangini said Davis understands the value of special teams and that is what has got the coach's attention, besides his work toting the ball.

"He's been noticed."

Hard Knocks: Mangini was asked about his thoughts of hitting and tackling in practice.

"It's what we do," Mangini said. "It's a contact sport and you have to practice it."

In recent years under Romeo Crennel, the Browns rarely went full go, in terms of hitting, in practice.

"There is a delicate balance that you have to adjust it constantly."

Quick Hits: DL Shaun Rogers and WR Braylon Edwards were on the sidelines riding bicycle during practice…DB Eric Wright joined Rogers and Edwards during practice and appeared to injure his upper leg…Rookie DB Don Carey was not practicing…QB Brady Quinn hit WR Lance Leggett on a long pass that Quinn threw between 50-60 yards in the air. DB Corey Ivy was defending on the play…LB David Bowens batted down a pass from QB Derek Anderson…DB Mike Adams broke up a pass in the end zone from Quinn to TE John Madsen…Quinn hit WR Paul Hubbard on a nice crossing pattern in the two-minute drill and then followed that with a sideline pass to WR Brian Robiskie.

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