Austin Corbett's first NFL season was, in a word, uncomfortable.
A longtime starter at left tackle for Nevada, Corbett was quickly directed away from the position to an interior spot upon arriving in Cleveland. Naturally, the biggest hurdle on the path to playing time resided in the interior, where Kevin Zeitler, JC Tretter and fellow former Wolf Pack lineman Joel Bitonio held all three starting roles.
Austin, meet a reserve role.
Corbett spent the 2018 season learning the fine details of playing an interior position while seated behind the aforementioned trio, which started a combined 48 games -- better known as every regular season game at each position. There simply wasn't much room for Corbett to crack the lineup.
"It was definitely different," Corbett said during a Wednesday appearance on Cleveland Browns Daily. "It definitely didn't sit well with me the first couple of weeks. Even making game day inactives, that's just not who I am as a competitor and a football player. It was definitely tough. And my wife, it was tough for us at home."
His wife, Madison, couldn't relate much with spending time on the bench, either. She was a two-time All-Mountain West selection as part of the Nevada volleyball team, where she made an impact from her first season on campus through her last.
Corbett could find at least some help in the form of a familiar face: Bitonio. The Browns All-Pro guard preceded Corbett at left tackle at Nevada, and while he earned a starting job in Cleveland as a rookie, he was still able to help ease his fellow Wolf Pack product into the pace of the NFL. Eventually, that also included Corbett accepting the fact his best way to help the team in 2018 would be on the practice field.
"As time went on, OK, my role has changed and I gotta embrace that role," Corbett explained. "That's what I tried to focus on. JC got banged up pretty well and I had to take over in practice playing some center, just making sure that whatever comes up, I gotta be ready. Just really try to embrace that role."
That work might end up benefitting Corbett more than he realizes right now. As things often change quickly in the NFL, so did the makeup of the Browns' starting line last month. General manager John Dorsey dealt Zeitler to New York as part of a blockbuster deal that netted the Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and edge rusher Olivier Vernon.
Suddenly, there was room for Corbett to make the leap into the starting lineup.
The job won't come with a ceremony, a bouquet of roses or an honorary placard. Corbett will have to earn it, and Dorsey made sure that won't come easily when he signed veteran guards Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann in March.
The Browns acquired edge rusher Olivier Vernon via trade with the New York Giants. View an assortment of photos featuring Vernon throughout his seven seasons in the NFL.
"It's kind of been the same thing from everyone that I've talked to, like 'hey, there's this plan, there's this hole open for you now,'" Corbett said when asked what folks have said to him about the new opportunity at right guard. "And yeah, it's yours for the taking but by no means is it going to be given to me. I don't want to go through life by just anything given to me, so that's how I'd want it and we brought in some good guys to compete with and I'm just looking forward to that competition."
The competition is guaranteed to be fierce, especially when factoring in the pressure that comes with being a team that is no longer expected to be a doormat. The same weight only increases when you're the one battling for one of the very few open starting roles on the team, one that could attract a massive amount of blame and ridicule should you fail to perform when the lights become bright.
"It's been exciting just to get all these pieces put together," Corbett said. "The confidence that we had at the end of last year and that momentum that we were building, just to be a part of that, like 'hey, I've got to do my part, I've got to make sure I give these guys time and open up holes for these guys because they're unbelievable.' They're going to make plays left and right.
"Who am I? I'm just some kid from Reno (with) these superstars. I've just got to make sure I do my job and the five of us up front, if we give them time or any hole at all, they're going to make it count."
They will make it count. And hopefully for Corbett, he'll end up counting his starts and his teammates' touchdowns, and no longer the number of Sundays spent on the inactives list.