Training Camp Story of the Day

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Damion Ratley returns from injury eager to prove himself in wide receiver competition

Damion Ratley has been in this position before.

The wide receiver fought for one of the final spots on the roster a season ago after the Browns selected him in the sixth round of the 2018 draft. He was considered a longshot to make the team, and that hasn't changed a year later.

Now, Ratley will fight for a spot again after missing the first three weeks of training camp recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered during the second practice. It won't be easy for the former Texas A&M wideout, but Ratley's mindset hasn't changed even though his timeframe to impress coaches was split in half.

"If I thought about the window being smaller, that'd be my only mindset," Ratley said. "I don't think like that. I just got to do what I got to do to make the squad. I love what I do, and it's always fun doing what you love. It's very fun to be back out there."

Check out photos from the seventeenth day of Browns Camp by team photographer Matt Starkey

Ratley played in 13 games last season and made 13 catches for 144 yards. Last year's production, however, means little for head coach Freddie Kitchens, who watched Ratley receive some first team reps Monday.

The wide receiver room is one of the Browns' most crowded groups, but Ratley can boost his chances of sticking around if he can rebound quickly and display the same talent that impressed Kitchens during OTAs in May.

"I need to know what I'm getting when he gets on the field," Kitchens said. "I need balls caught when they're put on him, and I need him to make contested catches."

The Browns receiving corps received a huge upgrade when it added Odell Beckham Jr. from a trade with the New York Giants in March, and Ratley has basked in watching Beckham make acrobatic catches in practice and test the speed of Browns defensive backs each play.

Beckham's presence, however, means there's one less spot than last year for a more inexperienced receiver to make the 53-man roster. Jaelen Strong and Derrick Willies, one of the undrafted free agents to make the team with Ratley last season, have impressed in camp, too, and each have caught a touchdown in the preseason.

None of that fazed Ratley, though. He loves watching any of his receiving teammates make eye-popping plays regardless of the impact on his roster placement. Now that he's healthy, Ratley hopes to make some highlight-reel catches, too.

"I've been anxious the whole time trying to get in, even in a walk-through," Ratley said. "They wouldn't let me do it. Control what you can control is a big thing for me. I just had to get healthy so I can go 100 percent when I get out there, not just get back out and go 75 (percent) and hurt myself again."

Ratley struggled to contain his excitement from the sidelines in the first two preseason games. He's watched receivers like Rashard Higgins and D.J. Montgomery haul in deep passes for big gains after they raced around defensive backs, and Ratley knew he could do the same without the hamstring injury.

"Just seeing these games, man, the (defensive backs) are being slow," Ratley said. "I'm very excited. I can't wait to get back out there."

He has two preseason games left to make similar plays. With his eager attitude, Ratley can't be counted out of the receiver competition just yet.

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