BEREA, Ohio -- With Josh Gordon suspended for the season, the Cleveland Browns wide receiving corps is one of the weakest on paper in the National Football League. The Browns kept five receivers on their initial 53-man roster -- Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, Travis Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel and Charles Johnson -- and on Sunday waived Johnson in exchange LaRon Byrd.
Of the five receivers on the roster, only Austin has significant playing experience. Gabriel is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Abilene Christian. Benjamin is the Browns fourth-round draft pick in 2012, who has made six starts and has 23 career catches for 403 yards and two touchdowns. Hawkins played his first three seasons with Cincinnati, making two starts. And Byrd played in four games for Arizona the last two seasons and had seven catches for 103 yards and a touchdown during this preseason for Dallas before getting cut.
Austin was a two-time Pro Bowl selection in eight years with the Cowboys who was slowed the last three seasons by a nagging hamstring injury. I sat down with the former undrafted rookie free agent who burst on the scene in 2009, signed a six-year, $54 million contract in 2010 and is now the Browns undeclared No. 1 wide receiver.
Ashley Fox: Josh Gordon obviously is an amazing talent, but he's suspended for the season. Are you comfortable being the No. 1 receiver?
Miles Austin: Well I don't know about any number of a receiver, I'm just trying to really do the best I can with the opportunities given to me. I think we've got a bunch of talented receivers that are all willing and able to pick up whatever slack is left behind or do our part to make this offense what I can be.
AF: Do you feel perhaps this offense needs you more than you were needed in Dallas?
MA: That's a funny question that can be interpreted. I think this offense is about the opportunities you get, so there are certain games that I'll get maybe (fewer) opportunities than someone else. There will be some games I might get more opportunities than someone else. For me to put an extra baggage or something on my shoulders and to press and think, ‘Man, I've got to do this all,' I think that would be crazy thinking. ...
I've just got to do the most with the opportunities given to me, and I think everyone has to do the same, help each other out, lean on each other, believe in each other. I think the one thing from championship teams that I see is just how accountable everyone is to each other, so when we get that opportunity to make that play when your number is called, I think making that play is more important than putting some weight on your shoulders.
AF: You were in Dallas for eight seasons and did fairly well for an undrafted rookie free agent out of Monmouth. Nevertheless, did it hurt when they cut you after last season?
MA: It didn't hurt. I told them that I felt so fortunate to be a part of the organization, that they gave me a shot coming out that there was absolutely no ill feelings or anything like that. So I felt like we left on great terms. I'm still great friends with a lot of guys over there, I feel like in this business it's rare to even be somewhere a couple years, never mind the eight that I spent over there.
When I spoke to Jerry (Jones), I said I appreciate the opportunity you guys gave me and even speaking to him, I gave some in that relationship, you know what I'm saying? Every relationship is a give and take. I don't feel like it was all one sided one way or another. It was a great relationship, but I'm excited now to be here and have a new season start up.
AF: How are you physically?
MA: Good, yeah. I've seen a stretch specialist and took from some of the routines he was teaching me, so now every day I'm more on a regimented routine. I do more for hydration and vitamins and all of that. It's the same every day, and so far, so good. Obviously you never know about anything, but I feel good.
AF: So much attention has been on the quarterbacks this preseason. How has Brian Hoyer looked to you?
MA: I think he looks good. He's throwing the ball good. He knows the offense, obviously. So it's all a matter of what we do when it's time to go, which this is obviously a big week for us. You've got to start with one.