VIDEO: Travis Benjamin sprinting to starring roles on punt returns and offense

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BEREA, Ohio -- Now you see him, now you don't.

Blink, sneeze or look down at your phone and you just might miss Browns receiver Travis Benjamin blazing up the field untouched into the end zone, like he did Thursday night against the Rams on his 91-yard punt return.

"I'm still young in my coaching career, but I've never coached a guy that can run like Travis,'' said receivers coach Scott Turner, Norv's son. "I don't think I can really compare him to anyone.''

They didn't call Benjamin 'The Belle Glade Blur' back at his Florida high school for nothing. He rocked the 40-yard dash in 4.36 at the NFL Combine and has run it in 4.26. Even in the NFL, no one can catch him from behind.

"He’s got stupid speed,'' said Brandon Weeden after the Rams game. "It’s nice throwing to him when we get him on a (go route) down the sideline, but you’ve got to let it rip ‘cause he can run. He’s a big-play threat, so you love it. That’s a spark. He's a guy that's able to break one at anytime.''

Benjamin, the Browns' fourth-round pick out of Miami in 2012, did just that again Sunday in practice when he turned on the jets, sped past Trevin Wade and hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from Weeden.

"I think if I get the edge on you, it's me all the way,'' said Benjamin.

He ranks himself one of the top five fastest players in the league, along with the Eagles' DeSean Jackson and the Titans' Chris Johnson. After that, he ran out of names.

Question is, can Benjamin's diminutive frame (5-10, 175) withstand the rigors of the NFL, especially if he's returning punts and also seeing increased action on offense? A couple of minutes in his presence and you'd swear he could be suiting up next Friday night for the Belle Glade Raiders again.

"I don't worry about him,'' said Turner. "He's done a great job over the course of his career both in college and last year in the NFL just knowing how to protect himself. He's a smart player, he has good spatial awareness, so he's able to get down when he needs to get down. You don't see alot of guys get a real solid shot on him. Obviously he's skinny but he knows how to play in his body.''

Besides, he's like Plastic Man, extending his limbs to snare the ball and twisting his body to avoid the big hit.

"If you look at the way his body's put together, he's got really long arms and really long legs and he can really stretch them, so he actually plays a lot bigger than he is,'' said Turner. "His catching radius is bigger than most guys of his height and he's able to stretch the field with his speed and stride length.''

While watching film of Benjamin's punt return, Turner was struck by how much ground Benjamin covered with every step.

"He and Josh (Gordon) have the longest stride length of the receivers, although Josh's is a little longer,'' he said.

And you won't find Turner following behind Benjamin in the cafeteria, urging him to plop another serving of fettucine Alfredo on his plate.

"Yeah, you'd like him to gain weight, but you definitely don't want him to lose any speed,'' said Turner. "That's what makes him the good player that he is. I leave that up to (strength and conditioning coach) Brad Rolle.''

Turner was excited about the raw Benjamin he saw on film last season and couldn't wait to start coaching him up.

"He's really exceeded my expectations and it's based moreso on what type of person he is as a worker and as a professional,'' said Turner. "He's a smart guy and he focuses in meetings and takes notes and then on the field he really works on the techniques that I'm coaching or my dad's coaching and he's shown improvement throuhgout the Spring. Coming back here in camp, he gets better every day and it's due to the way he approaches it and the way he takes coaching.''

Coach Rob Chudzinski has been impressed with Benjamin's improved route running.

"He's gotten a lot better,'' said Chudzinski. "He’s using his speed better in his routes. As opposed to last year, where he was just a guy that ran deep, this year he's shown ability to run the shorter routes as well and get in and out of breaks really well.”

The Browns need Benjamin to keep progressing by leaps and bounds, because he'll be relied on heavily in the first two games when Gordon is out on suspension for his failed codeine test. Benjamin will most likely start on the outside opposite Greg Little in those first two contests against Miami and Baltimore.
"Travis is going to have a role in this offense, I believe, throughout the whole season,'' said Turner. "But we're going to have a guy down the first two games, so everybody's going to have to step up, and part of that's going to be on Travis for sure.''

Chudzinski and Turner don't expect the dual role of punt returner and receiver to be a problem.

"A guy like Travis, he can play at a high level for a long period of time,'' said Turner. "He's got really good stamina and he can run.''

Perhaps the highest compliment Benjamin received Thursday night after the punt return was the shoutout from his predecessor, Josh Cribbs, on twitter.

"He was a great mentor while he was here in Cleveland,'' said Benjamin. "By watching him and learning the things he did, it's coming along into my game. Even if both of us were back there [returning], he'd tell me what to watch for (like) how to read the punter's foot.''

But there's one thing Cribbs couldn't teach him: how to run like the wind.

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