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Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards is back.
The fifth-year pro was on the practice field with his teammates Wednesday morning for the first time in training camp, and the first time since the OTAs in the spring. He had been sidelined for the first four days of camp, including six practices, dating back to Saturday with an undisclosed non-football injury. He had also sat out the mandatory three-day minicamp in early June.
Both Edwards and Browns head coach Eric Mangini have refused to discuss any specifics about the injury, and that is expected to continue since the coach thinks talking about injuries gives his team a competitive disadvantage.
Edwards is trying to rebound from arguably his poorest season. Though he led the club in 2008 in receptions with 55, receiving yards (873), average yards per catch (15.9) and touchdown grabs (three, tied with the since-traded Kellen Winslow), his numbers represented a dramatic drop from what they had been in 2007 when he had the best season ever for a Browns pass catcher. He had 80 receptions and set team records in receiving yards with 1,289) and TD catches (16) in that year.
Plus what also really hurt him in 2008 is the fact he had an extraordinary number of drops.
But in fairness to Edwards, the entire offense struggled in 2008 after an impressive year in ’07. Some of that was due to injuries, especially at quarterback, where the Browns went through four starters, but part of it was performance-related as well.
Both the Browns and Edwards were anxious for him to return. He is, by far, the team’s No. 1 receiver, particularly after Winslow was dealt to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and for him, this is a contract year. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Now 26, Edwards, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft out of Michigan, goes into 2009 with 228 receptions for 3,558 yards (15.6) and 28 touchdowns. Barring something unforeseen, he will enter the Browns’ top 10 list for career receptions this year. He would need just 48 catches to do so. Earnest Byner and Dennis Northcutt are tied for 10th place with 276. Right ahead of them is Ray Renfro with 281.