Browns rookie free safety Jamoris Slaughter is ready to take the next major step in his comeback attempt -- and his young career.
Slaughter has been sidelined this offseason while rehabilitating from a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon he suffered last year as a senior at Notre Dame, but he said today that he’s been medically cleared to practice when training camp begins July 25.
Slaughter, a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft who believes he would’ve been selected earlier if his injury hadn’t occurred, doesn’t expect to be limited at all.
“I'm cleared at this point to do everything, so I've been feeling really good,” Slaughter said today as the Browns' rookie class participated in a youth football clinic at FirstEnergy Stadium. “I've been working out hard with the team, just waiting to get back for training camp.”
Tashaun Gipson, who entered the NFL last year as an undrafted rookie, has taken all of the first-team reps at free safety this offseason and remains the favorite to secure the starting job heading into the 2013 season. Johnson Bademosi, another undrafted free agent from the 2012 class, converted from cornerback to free safety and has been working with the second unit.
Slaughter, though, is eager to make a case for himself.
“It's one thing I think about everyday is getting that starting position,” Slaughter said. “I know it's a process. It doesn't happen overnight. As long I keep taking the right steps and staying positive, I think it will happen.
“I'm just going to bring everything I've got. They tell me they drafted me for a reason, so I'm going to go out there and prove to them that I'm worth what they think I am.”
Slaughter believes his speed has been restored throughout the course of his rehab.
“I think it's back where it was,” Slaughter said. “I think I need to do a little more explosion work just because I haven't been exploding as much, but that comes with practice and getting out there and playing.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Slaughter missed the final 10 games of last season after suffering the injury Sept. 15 against Michigan State, so he can’t wait to practice again.
“I'm steaming to get out there on the field,” Slaughter said. “Just having to watch OTAs, and minicamp, I've been getting a lot of mental reps. On that side, it's helped me out a lot, mentally, just learning the playbook and watching the guys and seeing the things they do good and bad and learn from that. I know when I step on the field and get the rust off I'll be right back.
“I've been out for almost a year, so it's going to be a process. But it's something that you've just got to take one day at a time and learn to get better each day and not make the same mistakes. I can't give you a direct time on how well I'll do and all of that, but just when that time comes I'll deal with it.”
Rookie cornerback Leon McFadden, a third-round pick in this year’s draft, is convinced Slaughter’s work ethic will help him achieve his goals.
“Jamoris is a great guy on the field and off the field,” said McFadden, Slaughter’s roommate this offseason at the team hotel. “He’s a student of the game. He wasn’t able to practice with us due to an injury, but on the sideline he’s taking mental reps, telling corners what they should be doing in certain coverages.”
When training camp begins, it’ll be time for Slaughter to back up his talk and fight for a starting role.
“It's definitely going to be competition,” Slaughter said. “It's going to be work. It's not going to happen overnight. I'll just continue to stay focused and stay on track, and I think there will be an opportunity.”
Rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo has recently established an offseason routine by pounding cheeseburgers at Five Guys.
“I’ve been there three days in a row,” Mingo said with a laugh.
Mingo, though, has always been the type of guy who can eat whatever he wants without his waistline suffering consequences. So Mingo plans to report to training camp in late July at his current weight of 237 pounds despite his fast-food binge.
“A lot of people think you have to be a certain weight to play a certain position,” said Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. “I don’t think that’s true.”
The 6-foot-4 Mingo indicated the coaching staff has not encouraged him to bulk up.
“They really don’t care,” he said.
Mingo believes the Browns’ defense has the potential to become the top unit in the NFL.
“I think if everything is going well, I think this defense could be the best in the league,” Mingo said. “We have a lot of players that can contribute and help this team win. We’ve got a lot of rushers. We’ve got corners on the back end. We’ve got D-linemen that can hold those blocks and get off and make plays. We’ve got linebackers that can come up and tackle the run and get back in coverage as well. So we have a lot of tools that we can use.”
Mingo said the players have embraced defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s attack-oriented mindset and are adopting his personality.
“I think he has a very strange personality,” Mingo said. “But we like it. We love it. He’s an aggressive guy -- we like that -- and it shows in his play calling. He loves to blitz. He loves to get after people, and we like that. I definitely love to play for a guy that’s going forward instead of waiting for them to come at you.”
Browns wide receivers Davone Bess and Greg Little have traded jersey numbers. Bess will now wear No. 15, and Little will don No. 18, Browns media relations coordinator Dan Murphy wrote on Twitter.