JoJo Natson is the smallest player on the Browns' roster, but he's squarely in the middle of one of the biggest remaining open competitions.
On top of competing for a spot at wide receiver, Natson is among the contenders vying to return punts and kicks for the Browns in 2020. These are roles Natson handled — and handled well — over the past two seasons with the Rams, but he's not taking anything for granted while he competes with the likes of rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones and RB D'Ernest Johnson.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Natson after a recent walk-through.
CB.com: What's the first week of training camp been like for you with your new team?
Natson: It's been good. Back to the grind. It definitely feels good to get things going a bit each day, each week. It feels good to have that camp feeling and being around the guys, going to work every day with the guys.
CB.com: When you were looking at teams this offseason, what intrigued you about the Browns?
Natson: (Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer) reached out. It was more of a return role and that's something I value in my game. I felt like it was the right fit for me and the fact that I'm a little familiar with the Ohio area, the fact I went to the University of Akron, it felt good to come back to Ohio and be in Cleveland.
CB.com: What's made you such a successful returner going all the way back to your college days?
Natson: Just heart, determination and going out there and giving it my all. I just go out there with a quiet mindset. On the field, I just try to bring the best out of myself and help the team in any way possible.
Check out photos from the sixth day of Browns Camp
CB.com: How seriously do you take your craft as a returner?
Natson: You get better with repetition. I catch as many punts as I can and work on my elusiveness and my quickness. I do a lot of agility drills. Most importantly, I do a lot of reps as far as catching punts, even if it's off the JUGS machine or a punter's foot, just getting a lot of reps daily.
CB.com: Through the first week of practice, you've been active on offense, too. What's it been like getting back to doing more at wide receiver?
Natson: It definitely feels good to go out and line up as a receiver and make a couple of catches. I'm just trying to show my coaches and teammates what I can do outside of returning kicks. I'm just trying to keep getting better. We've got some guys in our receiving room I'm trying to learn from every day. It's good for me to be around these guys and learn from them every day. I just try to get better as a receiver and a returner every day.
CB.com: Have you been encouraged by the kind of plays they've utilized you on?
Natson: Definitely. It's been a lot of end-arounds, reverse plays. The guys are doing a good job blocking for me on those plays. There's even some pass-catching plays with some option routes. It's working well for me.
CB.com: During your junior year at Utah State, you attempted 50 rushers to go along with 51 receptions. How did that make you the player you are today?
Natson: With my return abilities, my coach saw I was special with the ball in my hands. He wanted to get me a couple of rushes and it ended up pretty well for me. I just kind of took off from there with that role. That was pretty much it.
CB.com: How different was it for you to sign with a team but not be able to visit the facility or meet your new teammates?
Natson: That was a big challenge not having OTAs this year and doing everything on Zoom and trying to learn the offense, it was very different. Sometimes you have to adjust and adapt in life. That's what this situation was. I don't want to say it worked out for the best, but it kept me grounded and made me study a little more, look at film a little more during my down time.
CB.com: What's Chad O'Shea like as a WRs coach?
Natson: Coach O'Shea has been in the game for a while. He's been around some really good receivers and he tells us about how he coached some of those guys. The knowledge he brings to us is really good for the receivers room.
Natson: It's a blessing. It's a blessing being around those guys. They're very talented. I told Odell the other day I'm just trying to soak up the game from him.
CB.com: Without the preseason, what do you have to do to prepare yourself for the first game being the real deal?
Natson: It's all mental at this point. Knowing the fact there's no preseason games, you have to come in there daily and take one step closer and keep preparing your mind and body for the game. When it comes to that time, I feel like we'll be definitely ready.