Travis Benjamin caps successful comeback with new title

BEREA — Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin underwent reconstructive right knee surgery last Nov. 15, but his recovery is well ahead of schedule.

Special teams coach Chris Tabor has been so impressed with Benjamin’s comeback that he named him the team’s primary kickoff and punt returner Thursday.

“We’re in the business of winning games, and Travis gives you an opportunity for a big play,” Tabor said. “Obviously, he’s an explosive weapon, and if he’s our best player doing it, then we’re going to put him out there and do it.

“He’s done a great job already in training camp, which is why Travis is going to be our returner this season.”

Benjamin averaged 48.7 yards on three kickoff returns and 11.7 yards on 22 punt runbacks before disaster struck eight games into the 2013 season.
While returning a punt on Oct. 27, the speedster from Miami (Fla.) caught his right cleat in the turf during a spin move at Arrowhead Stadium, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.

“It was a non-contact injury in Kansas City that can happen at any time,” Tabor lamented. “But Travis is healthy now, he’s running well, he’s catching the ball well. And to me, he still appears very fast.”

Benjamin also believes that is the case, which is why he was pleased to hear Tabor’s announcement. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has wanted to serve as Cleveland’s lone return man since being drafted in 2012, but this will mark his first opportunity to do so.

“It’s going to be great, knowing that I can be a big factor, that playmaker that gives us that extra yard we need to be a successful team,” said Benjamin, who has scored two touchdowns on 25 career punt returns.

“Just to get back in the swing of things, there are going to be butterflies on that first hit, so it will be nice to get the jitterbugs out of the way.”

Though the Browns play their preseason opener Saturday in Detroit, it’s likely that Benjamin won’t see significant time until the regular season begins Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh.

Tabor said he plans on using several other players to run back kicks against the Lions, preferring to save his most dangerous weapon for the Steelers.

“It makes no difference to me,” Benjamin said. “Whether it’s a kick return or punt return, it’s all about setting the offense up so we can go down and score touchdowns. As a unit, we’ll scheme it up and block it how Coach Tabor wants us to, and make the best out of it for the team.”

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