CLEVELAND: 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 revealed Tuesday 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 he hadn’t been hurt, 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 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 free agent, 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 upcoming 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 now that he believes he’s 100 percent healthy.
“It’s one thing I think about every day 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. In its 2013 draft preview, Pro Football Weekly estimated Slaughter’s time in the 40-yard dash would have been 4.5 seconds if he were healthy and able to run.
“I think [my speed is] 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’s itching to practice again.
“I’m steaming to get out there on the field,” Slaughter said. “Just having to watch OTAs [organized team activities] 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.”
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, who has been 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.
“I think I bring intensity. I think I’ve got a passion for the game, a love for the game, and I just like winning. I have that winning mentality, so having that type of mentality is good for any type of football player.”
Especially one on the comeback trail.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.