Austin 'could be' No. 1 receiver

AKRON, Ohio -- What a difference a year makes when it comes to professional football.

Injuries hampered wide receiver Miles Austin over the past three seasons, but now that he is back to 100 percent healthy, and based on what he has shown through the first week of training camp, the Cleveland Browns believe he could again be a top-flight NFL receiver.

"(He) could be, based on his history, and I think he's done a great job in this offseason with his health," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "He wasn't unhealthy, but it was just a situation of looking at why he was having hamstring issues. I think he's really much more in tune with his body now, and hopefully, we can get him through camp and during the season, it'll be a matter of getting him to Sundays.

"He's a veteran guy, great with his hands. He knows how to create separation. When you say, 'crafty veteran,' that's him. He knows all the tricks, and he's still sneaky fast. I think he eats up ground a little more than people expect him to when you see him."

Austin, an undrafted free-agent signee of the Dallas Cowboys in 2006, has twice been a 1,000-yard wide receiver in his NFL career, and in five of his eight years in Dallas, he averaged 14.3 or more yards per catch.

"Whatever is asked of me, I'm going to go out there and try to make the best of it," Austin said. "If you catch a short pass, maybe you can turn it up.

"I feel like whether I'm outside in the two-receiver set, inside in the slot. I was mostly in the slot honestly, when we were in three-receiver sets the last couple years. Whatever they feel most comfortable with is what I'm willing to do."

While Austin has drawn praise for his "strong start," the veteran receiver would disagree with the assessment that he is playing consistently at a high level. However, he feels blessed to have been given an opportunity to continue his NFL career.

"I don't know how much I believe in luck, and if I did believe strongly in luck, I would feel I was pretty lucky," Austin said. "Paths happen in life. Things happen. You have to overcome adversity. (It) doesn't matter if you stumble as long as you get back up. You might fall down again. You've just got to keep moving forward regardless.

"I feel good physically, which is a positive thing. I think (it) is the most important thing regardless of what the actual results are for me, but I just want to continue to get more and more reps, more and more plays, know the offense more and more, and just continue to work on my technique, so that's my main goal."

And according to teammate, and fellow veteran receiver Nate Burleson, Austin is well on his way to achieving, and possibly exceeding, that goal.

"Just me from the inside out, I think Miles is looking very strong," Burleson said. "That is one powerful receiver. He is big.

"We joke about how big he is, but he plays at a very fast, aggressive pace, and if he's tentative or nervous or hesitant about that hamstring, then, I don't want to see him at 100 percent because he's strong to the ball. He's a really, really good receiver. Like I said a long time ago, if we can get him to play close to the Miles of old, oh man, we're going to be alright."


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