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Leaner Charles Gaines ready to help wherever he can in Browns secondary

Charles Gaines' rehabilitation from an injured hamstring went beyond the traditional exercises, stretches and workouts that are customary with such an ailment.

The rookie defensive back not only worked his way back to the field in prime shape because of what he did inside the trainers room, but also the cafeteria.

Gaines admits he was "out of shape" when he arrived for his first training camp in the NFL. After missing an early practice or two with a hamstring injury, Gaines went through the typical ups and downs of a rookie before a breakout performance of sorts against Tampa Bay in Cleveland's third preseason game. It was a bittersweet evening for Gaines, who was unable to finish because his hamstring injury came back even stronger.

Gaines was placed on the Browns' injured reserve - designated to return list two days after NFL rosters were dropped to 53. He returned to practice Wednesday and is eligible to be elevated to the active roster by the time Cleveland takes on Cincinnati on Nov. 5.

When he takes his first official NFL snap, he'll be roughly 12 pounds lighter than he was against the Buccaneers.

"I had to watch what I eat, what time I eat, what I eat, things like that," Gaines said. "I think coach (Jeff) Hafley and coach Aaron Glenn, they really did an awesome job keeping up with me on my weight. Every time I see them, they'd say, 'What you weighing now? How's your body fat? What you doing to get your weight down? What are you eating? No, you can't eat that. Put it in the garbage.'

"That played a big role in my recovery. It made me look at things a little better that they do care for you even though you're not playing and producing for the Browns."

Re-living the Browns 27-20 win in St. Louis in 2007.

Among the food items Gaines had to reduce or completely sacrifice as he worked his way back to his college playing weight of 180 pounds: macaroni and cheese, bread and fast food.

"He has done an outstanding job, along with our strength staff and our training staff, to come along," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "He has been in all the meetings. He is on point with what we are doing. The workout part of it, couldn't help but get his weight down. We feel like he is in great shape, but he needs to get in football shape.

"That is the downside of this. When you take that block of time off, even though he is available and 100 percent, it is the football part of it and that is why we will take it slow."

Because of a slew of injuries, Gaines received extensive work at outside cornerback and even started a game during the preseason. When the Browns played at Tampa Bay, Gaines was used at nickel back, where he likely fits best within the Cleveland defense. He broke up two passes and intercepted another during a first half the Browns dominated.

When starting nickel back K'Waun Williams was sidelined with a concussion in Week 3 and 4, veteran cornerback Tramon Williams slid over to nickel and Pierre Desir came off the bench to play in Tramon Williams' place. With Gaines in the fold, Cleveland will have more options when its depth is inevitably tested.

Now that he's back on the practice field, Gaines is counting down the days until he's eligible to help the Browns on game day.

"I just like to go out there and compete," Gaines said. "You're not going to win them all, but just try to win as many as you can, especially with the guys we have on this team: Tramon, Joe Haden, (Donte Whitner), (Tashaun Gipson). Once you're out there with those guys, you've got no choice but to do your best."

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