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Training Camp

Joel Bitonio not taking anything for granted after frustrating 2015 season

Joel Bitonio says he's not taking anything for granted after a nagging ankle injury cut a "super frustrating" 2015 season short. But it seems to have given the promising left guard a newfound perspective as he enters his third season with the Browns.

"It was definitely something that you're like, 'Man, my rookie year went so well' and you take it for granted almost," said Bitonio, who spoke with reporters Monday before practice.

"Now you come back and I worked my tail off this offseason to get back and I'm ready to go now. We're excited to get back out there and I think we're bringing a good line together."

Indeed, Bitonio, who started all 16 games as a rookie and 10 last year before being placed on injured reserve in December, is finally healthy.

He also finds himself as a cornerstone on an offensive line that remains a work in progress following an up-and-down outing in a 17-11 loss to the Packers on Friday night.

"We definitely have some stuff to work on. The first group got maybe 11 plays so we didn't really get into a huge rhythm," Bitonio said, adding, "It's just the O-line just trying to get our form back."

After all, the Browns offensive line — which returns Bitonio and veterans left tackle Joe Thomas and right guard John Greco — are still trying to find a sense of unity and timing as 2015 first-round draft pick Cameron Erving steps in at center and the 6-foot-7 Austin Pasztor at right tackle following the offseason departures of Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz.

And after minor injuries limited Greco and Erving in practice last week, a trip to Green Bay marked what was more or less the first time the group played together against live competition.

"We're all just working together and kind of putting that group back together," Bitonio said. "For the first game, there were a lot of positives and definitely stuff we need to work on and we're trying to work on to get ready for Atlanta this week."

Bitonio, of course, will play a key role in helping the offensive line come along. Jackson, who has spoken highly of the guard, continued to heap praise Monday.

"I think he's one of the finest guards in football. He played extremely well the other night. I'm very excited about his future and what he potentially could be," Jackson said.

"He did some really, really good things the other night. I knew about him before I got here but having the opportunity to work with him and see how hard he works and how much passion he has for playing the game and how important it is to him just raised my opinion of him two-fold."

And you can probably bet Bitonio won't take that for granted, either.

Day 13 was the last day of open practice for this year's Training Camp.

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