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Charles Gaines calls learning experience vs. Steelers 'a blessing'

It's going to take more than one game to shake Charles Gaines' confidence.

The rookie cornerback and his secondary coach, Jeff Hafley, won't sugarcoat Gaines' NFL debut. It didn't go as they hoped, as Gaines and the rest of Cleveland's defensive backs had a performance they'd love back in a 30-9 loss to the Steelers.

For Gaines, who missed Cleveland's first nine games because of a hamstring injury that put him on the Browns' injured reserve - designated to return list, it was a humbling learning experience that he also considered to be a "blessing."

"When I go back and watch film, I know what to work on and adjust to those faster, bigger receivers and quick guys like Antonio Brown. It is a blessing," Gaines said. "I think I really learned from my mistakes in that game. I promise it won't happen again."

In the wake of Sunday's loss, Browns coach Mike Pettine and Hafley were tough on the defensive backs and reluctant to make excuses for a group that's dealt with injuries since the start of the season. Joe Haden has missed five games and safeties Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson have started just half of the games together.

Haden's absence against the Steelers paved the way for Gaines to not only make his NFL debut, but also play a significant number of snaps. He split time with Pierre Desir and Johnson Bademosi on the opposite side of the field of veteran Tramon Williams. All four struggled to contain Martavis Bryant and Brown, who combined for 16 receptions, 317 yards and three touchdowns.

Gaines provided one of the bright spots when he turned lemons into lemonade during the second quarter. Beat by a couple steps on a deep ball to Bryant, Gaines caught up and forced a fumble at the end of the 64-yard reception.

"He is tough," Hafley said. "After getting beat from that play, he didn't hang his head. He kept going and tried to take the ball away. Charles has done a good job, coming back from the injury and losing the weight like what was talked about, and I will be excited to see him more."

Gaines is close to 15 pounds lighter than he was in the Browns' third preseason game, where he proved worthy of a roster spot with an impressive first half working at the nickel spot. The sixth-round pick out of Louisville has concentrated on the outside position as he's worked his way back from an injury.

When practice resumes Tuesday, Gaines will continue to battle for the snaps that likely will present themselves Nov. 30, against the Ravens if Haden is sidelined for a third consecutive game. Even in walk-throughs, he pleads with the receivers across from him to go full speed in order to prepare himself for his next challenge.

Asked if his confidence was shaken after his NFL debut, Gaines said "no" three times.

"I love what I do and I do what I love," Gaines said. "It is a learning experience. Some people go through a little to tell a little. Some people go through a lot to tell a lot. That is how I was raised. That is what I believe in."

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