Rashard Higgins was back in his comfort zone Sunday — the end zone.
Lined up in the slot, Higgins raced straight ahead 15 yards with no one around him, turned his head, reached up and snagged his first touchdown catch of the season. For the veteran receiver, it was a long time coming after a tough 2019 campaign that was marred by a knee injury and a 2020 season that began with minimal playing time.
On Sunday, though, Higgins was back in the spotlight as Cleveland's third wide receiver, and he played the way he and his coaches expected. He celebrated that way, too, as he capped his touchdown catch with his trademark walk down the red carpet.
"It felt like I have been there before," Higgins said Monday. "It was just like, 'You know what? I miss you. You miss me. Let's walk together.'
"It was fun, having my teammates just over there and just getting a win. It has been a hell of a journey."
Higgins saw the field for 40 snaps Sunday, by far his most playing time of the season. On top of his 15-yard touchdown catch, Higgins caught two more passes to finish with three receptions for 31 yards. Perhaps more importantly, Higgins laid one of the biggest blocks of his career on a 28-yard D'Ernest Johnson run that all but put the Colts away late in the game.
Those plays, and what Higgins has shown behind the scenes — whether it's preparing for the kind of role he had Sunday or preparing the Browns' defense as a member of the scout team — caught the attention of coach Kevin Stefanski, who singled out Higgins for his preparedness in a game that featured major contributions from a number of the Browns' reserves.
"He was inactive there for a couple games through no fault of his own – that is just how the numbers went – and he works so hard at practice and gives a great look," Stefanski said. "Whether he is on the scout team or special teams, it does not matter. He does his job, studies and prepares. He is a consummate pro. I am really proud of him, and I am happy for him that he was able to score last night."
One of the longest tenured Browns, Higgins has seen his perseverance tested plenty of times.
After a breakout 2018 campaign in which he caught 39 passes for 572 yards, Higgins struggled to gain a foothold in Cleveland's offensive attack last season. He missed a number of games with a knee injury and saw limited playing time upon returning, though he still delivered one of the biggest plays of the season — a touchdown catch, of course, in the Browns' win over the Bills.
Higgins re-signed with the Browns in May and impressed his new coaches in training camp to land a spot on the roster. The offense, though, hasn't utilized more than two receivers all that often, and KhaDarel Hodge landed the third receiver role out of training camp. That led to multiple games in which Higgins was inactive, including the Browns' Week 4 win over the Cowboys.
Higgins, though, wasn't fazed in the same way he might have been in previous years. He just kept working.
"David Robinson, my receivers coach back in Dallas, he would always say, 'Stay ready so you don't have to get ready,'" Higgins said. "I just know it is only a matter of time until my time is coming. It just so happened to be the Colts game, and I showed up and did my thing."
For his career, Higgins is averaging one touchdown per 10 catches. It's understandably one of his favorite things to do on the football field, but his willingness to do it all — red carpet or not — is why he's having such a blast on the 2020 Browns.
The Browns are winning, and Higgins has waited long enough for it.
"Coach believes in me," Higgins said. "I would not be on the team for no reason. He knows what I am capable of, and I do at a high level every time. He kept me on the team for a reason. He believed in me. He trusts in me. The whole staff upstairs, they believe in me. They know what I am capable of. There is nothing to question. I am on the team for a reason.
"When I am called upon, I have to do my job."
Check out photos of the Colts against the Browns