Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers returned to practice on Tuesday.
And it didn't take long for everyone to notice.
The Pro Bowler, who sat out Monday's two sessions with an undisclosed leg injury, lined up over center on the first play of team drills. Simultaneously with the snap to quarterback Derek Anderson, he shot the gap between the right guard and center, knifed into the backfield untouched and engulfed running back Jamal Lewis, hitting him a split-second after he took the hand-off.
"How's that for a return?" a media member said. "It's as if he never left."
But no big deal, really.
"Did you expect anything different?" fellow defensive lineman Robaire Smith chuckled. "Look at him. He's one of the best nose tackles in the game. I think he's the best, period.
"This team asks a lot of him, and he delivers a lot. People might have been shocked by what he did on that first play. But I wasn't."
As one football expert said as he looked at the Browns roster and pointed to Rogers' name, "How many impact players do the Browns have? One. And it's the guy right here."
LIGHTING IT UP: On Tuesday and in Monday's second practice, second-year pro Paul Hubbard was, far and away, the best wide receiver on the field. No one else was even close. He made catches all over the place – leaping to get some, stretching out vertically to the ground to get others. "Those are the two best back-to-back practices I've had since I've been here," he said. "The light has definitely gone on for me. The coaches tell us that when we make plays, we get more opportunities. I made some plays and took advantage of the extra reps to make some more. My confidence is going up. It's sky high."
This is in stark contrast to what happened last year. Personally scouted, and recommended, by Browns Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield, the club took Hubbard with their second pick in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin. Tremendously athletic after having been a track star for the Badgers, just as Warfield was at Ohio State in the early 1960s, Hubbard got off to a slow start and came up way short of making the team.
He was, though, re-signed to the practice squad, where he spent the first 14 games of the year before being signed to the regular roster for the last two after injuries hit the club. "I certainly was not in the situation I wanted to be in last year," he said. "I want from making plays at a good Division I program to being on the practice squad."
So what happened? Why such a change thus far this year?
"I got rid of the distractions I had last season," Hubbard said. "I was doing some things off the field that I shouldn't have been doing. I was going out and partying with the older guys. They know their bodies and know what they can do. I tried to keep up with the big boys, and I found out that I couldn't. Now I'm getting to bed early and eating the right things." But Hubbard knows he's still got a long, long way to go to earn a spot on this team. "I just need to keep making plays," he said.
OF NOTE: Safety Abram Elam had another interception after getting two on Monday. He has just one pick in three NFL seasons. … Cornerback Eric Wright returned to practice after injuring his hamstring midway through Monday morning's session. … Rookie linebacker Marcus Benard raced into the backfield to deflect a Brady Quinn pass just after the quarterback released the ball. He had an interception Monday evening. … Though Quinn had only a small window to complete a pass to Jerome Harrison down the right sideline, he threaded the needle and the running back went up among three defenders to grab the ball. It was the play of the day. … Browns head coach Eric Mangini is right. Rookie running back James Davis is indeed the first man down the field on the kickoff coverage team. … Another rookie, wide receiver Mohammed Massaquoi, put on a beautiful move to make rookie defensive back Bret Lockett completely miss after catching a short pass. … Veteran wideout Mike Furrey has the best hands on the team. He never seems to drop a pass. … Phil Dawson boomed a 47-yard field goal, but it was nullified by the fact the offense had called timeout. When he tried it again, he missed. Wonder what Dawson and Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan were thinking as they watched all that unfold? Early in 2007 at Oakland, Dawson hit one from 40 yards that would have given the Browns a 27-26 win. But it was ruled the Raiders, who had Ryan as their defensive coordinator, had called timeout. On the re-kick, Dawson's attempt was blocked and the Browns lost 26-24.
UP NEXT: The Browns will go back to practicing twice on Wednesday, from 8:45 to 10:45 a.m. and 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. After Tuesday's practice was closed to the general public, those two sessions will be open.
QUOTABLE: "I'm not saying football wasn't the main thing in my life last season, but it wasn't as important as it should have been." – Hubbard.