BEREA, Ohio--There is no question that Travis Benjamin can change the complexion of a game in a blink of an eye.
Benjamin jump started the Browns last Thursday after being in a malaise until he took a punt and returned it 57 yards to set up the first score early in the second quarter. He later, ripped off a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown to give the Browns a 17-10 lead later in the first half. Benjamin finished with seven returns for 179 yards and a 25.6 average every time he touched the ball.
However, on offense, Benjamin did not catch a pass. Benjamin's only ball thrown his way was on Brandon Weeden's first play after he entered the game as he tried to hit Benjamin deep down the right sideline. All totaled, Benjamin only was in on 4 of the 68 offensive snaps against the Bills or just six percent of the snaps. He was in on eight special teams snaps (21%).
With a team like the Browns looking for play makers, it seems a priority would be how to get him the ball.
"You like getting the ball into his hands and he's able to do some things that are pretty special," Rob Chudzinski said after practice Monday. "You can certainly see the type of speed that he has. We've been able to get him the ball some in the normal passing game. We've had some screens that he's been able to do that, as well. Any time you have a playmaker, you'd like to find ways to get the ball into his hands."
Through five games, Benjamin has 17 punt returns for 256 yards (15.1 avg.) with a touchdown. In 2012, Benjamin returned just three punts for 149 yards (49.7 avg.), including a 93-yard return for a touchdown.
Benjamin said he heard from former Browns returner Josh Cribbs after his big game with the Bills.
"(Cribbs) was a big inspiration to me," he said. "I learned a lot from him."
Benjamin said he's confident in himself and his teammates to get more returns as the season goes on.
"It's all about trusting yourself and knowing how fast you are," he said. "They're still is 11 guys on the field, so trusting yourself and your teammates. Joe Haden had a good block on that play. (Eric) Martin had a good block on that play. If I know someone is going to get that block I need and I trust myself."
Benjamin said he doesn't know if teams will try to kick away from him, but if they do, they will come back at him.
"This is the NFL and they won't look on me as a superman or trying to keep the ball away from me," he said. "(A special teams coach) will go back and say 'Hey, we can get this guy', so they'll kick it to me eventually."
Benjamin (5-10, 175) is slight in build and the Browns have failed to utilize him on kickoff returns. They've used Bobby Rainey and Greg Little and Chudzinski said that recently signed Fozzy Whittaker will be worked in this week. Benjamin returned three kickoffs in 2012 for 76 yards (25.3 avg.)
Chudzinski said there's an obvious difference between returning punts and kickoffs.
"Travis, we've mostly focused on the punts," Chudzinski said. "That's a little different type of return on kickoffs. There is more contact and it's a little different on how you hit the returns.
"It's more about a straight line and making a one cut (on kickoffs) and Travis can make more cuts on punts."
Benjamin returned kickoffs in college and will do whatever he's called upon.
"I'm on kick return, but they just haven't got to me yet," he said. "Greg Little is such an amazing talent. He's a downhill runner. He catches the ball and gets up the field quickly."
On offense, Benjamin has just five receptions for 105 yards, including a 39-yard reception in his only catch against the Bengals. He had three receptions for 44 yards against the Dolphins in the season opener as he started for Josh Gordon. He caught one pass for 22 yards against the Ravens in his second start. He was shutout against the Vikings, had one catch against the Bengals and was shutout again against the Bills.
In 2012 as a rookie, Benjamin caught 18 passes for 298 yards (16.6 avg.). He caught two touchdowns, including a 69 yard score. He also rushed the ball six times for 66 yards (11.0 avg.)
Josh Gordon is viewed as the deep ball threat for the Browns, but Benjamin is confident he will get his turn to make things happen as a wide receiver.
"We just take it time-by-time that we know those are the key guys in the offense to get the ball to to make big plays," he said. "Once the season goes on and those guys get double-teamed and (Greg) Little shows up, I'm going to show up and (Davone) Bess is going to show up."
Benjamin says his ultimate goal is to continue to make plays.
"I just want to go out there and be the best, knowing that I can make a game-changing play to put my team in a great position to win," Benjamin said. "(Set up) great field position to have a short field to score, so I'm going out there to do my best and change the game. That would be good for me."
Scary Time: DL Desmond Bryant was back at practice experiencing shortness of breath in the Bills game. He left the game and was taken to the Cleveland Clinic for observation. Chudzinski said on Friday that Bryant was cleared and he expected him to play against the Lions.
"I felt my heart was beating fast," Bryant said. "I was short of breath and I told (trainer) Joe (Shaheen). He said it was to the point to get it checked out."
Bryant experienced an irregular heartbeat while playing for the Raiders last season. He said it was a congenital condition. He said he experienced the symptoms at halftime and played a series in the second half before leaving the game.
"It's a pretty scary feeling," he said. "My body wouldn't calm down."
Bryant said the doctors are confident in how to treat the symptoms, most likely with medication.
"I'm pretty confident that the doctors are doing the things to prevent it from happening again."
Weeden Starts: As anticipated, Chudzinski confirmed that QB Brandon Weeden will start Sunday against the Lions.
He said the Browns are not sure if they will bring in another quarterback either to be third on the active roster or on the practice squad.
"We're looking at our options right now," Chudzinski said. "I'm comfortable with two or three. It's just a matter of weighing our options."
Hoyer Surgery: Chudzinski said that QB Brian Hoyer has not scheduled his surgery to repair his ACL as of yet. He indicated that Hoyer was going to see one more doctor to get his opinion.
"I don't believe there is a scheduled date yet (for the surgery)."
Hoyer tore his ACL against the Bills and was lost for the season.
Injury Update: LB Jabaal Sheard (knee), LB Quentin Groves (ankle) and RB Chris Ogbonnaya (concussion) worked with the trainers on the side during Monday's practice. Meanwhile, DL Billy Winn (calf) was still not at practice.
He's Back: WR Josh Cooper was re-signed to the practice squad and LB Justin Staples was released. Cooper started the season on the roster, but was released when the Browns signed RB Fozzy Whittaker last week. Cooper was somewhat of a security blanket for QB Brandon Weeden last year after playing with him at Oklahoma State.
Versatile Guy: MarQueis Gray is listed as a tight end on the roster, but he is also the Browns emergency quarterback. Chudzinski said that if QB Brandon Weeden would've been injured against the Bills, Gray would've played the position. Gray also takes the place of Ogbonnaya as a fullback.
"I've played quarterback my whole life," Gray said. "This is the first time I've ever played special teams."
Gray was the starting quarterback for Minnesota, but was undrafted and signed by the 49ers as a tight end. He was released in the final roster cuts and signed by the Browns. He played fullback when RB Chris Ogbonnaya was injured and now has emergency quarterback duties, as well. He has lined up as the 'wildcat' quarterback for a handful of plays thus far, but has yet to carry the ball or throw a pass.
"That's why I have to understand the playbook."
First Place Browns: The Browns haven't been in first place after five games since 1995. Currently, the Browns are tied with the Ravens and Bengals at 3-2 atop of the AFC North. Chudzinski was asked if he thinks the team will be focused going forward as a young team.
"They're hungry to begin with," Chudzinski said. "I don't think they're satisfied and they are doing the things they need to do to improve. The leadership on the team is made up of solid guys. We'll have our ups and downs, but our team is made up of fighters."