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Rookie S Richard LeCounte III feeling 'at home' with Browns

LeCounte is healthy and playing with confidence as he looks to further earn his role on the 53-man roster in his rookie season

Richard LeCounte III tossed a pair of Odell Beckham Jr.-branded cleats over his shoulders and flashed a smile.

LeCounte, a rookie fifth-round pick at safety, has plenty of reasons to be happy as he heads into the Browns' third preseason game of the year Sunday in Atlanta. He's grabbed an interception — both on Hail Mary plays — in each of his first two NFL games and has totaled a team-high three pass breakups. His new teammates have embraced him, as evidenced by the gifts from Beckham, and he's back to playing at the level he remembers as a secondary standout at Georgia, where he recorded eight interceptions in four seasons.

"Being in Cleveland's been a great time," he said Friday after the Browns' final practice at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus before they travel to Atlanta. "I've been learning the system and learning the plays. It's a blessing to be here."

Check out exclusive photos from Friday's practice at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus

LeCounte also feels blessed to be healthy, and not in the normal tone commonly used when describing football injuries.

Last season, when LeCounte was five games into his final college season, he was involved in a motorcycle accident and suffered a shoulder injury, bruised ribs and several cuts. The injury sidelined him for the rest of the season, with an exception being the final snap of the Peach Bowl, when Georgia put him on the field as a show of respect for his final moment in college football.

LeCounte recovered in time to participate in Georgia's Pro Day, but his 4.76-second time in the 40-yard dash was behind the average mark normally seen from top safety prospects. Without a full senior year and a top-tier Pro Day, LeCounte slid to a mid-round prospect but still offered plenty of upside.

The Browns believe he'll be able to reach it in Cleveland.

"Ball finds a way to him," head coach Kevin Stefanski said after the second preseason game. "He has great ball skills. (He) certainly did in college as well."

Among his teammates, LeCounte has particularly jelled with fellow safety John Johnson III, a four-year veteran who emerged as a vocal, talented and fun leader of the secondary after he joined the Browns in free agency last offseason. LeCounte said he lives in the same building as Johnson and pays frequent visits to his "penthouse" to watch tape. 

"John is a big brother that I never had," LeCounte said. "We have kind of the same personalities and I knew about him from LA and things like that. As soon as I saw him, I just tried to be like a sponge toward him and toward the other older guys that I see here."

For Lecounte to earn opportunities to play with Johnson during the regular season, he'll have to stack another quality performance together Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The setting will be familiar for LeCounte, who played "three or four" games in the state-of-the-art stadium with the Bulldogs. 

Atlanta is also a few hours from where he was born in Riceboro, Georgia, and he expects to have over 100 friends and family members in attendance. Many of them were also in Jacksonville, a 90-minute drive from his hometown, when the Browns played the Jaguars in their first preseason game.

"It's the best preseason I'll ever have," he said. "To be in Cleveland and still play close to home, that's a blessing."

It's all the more reasons for LeCounte to smile. He's healthy, comfortable and living up to the level of performance every rookie hopes to accomplish in their first training camp.

"I feel like I'm at home," he said. "I feel like everything is back to normal, and I'm ready to play."