BEREA, Ohio (AP) Ben Tate's injured right knee has healed. His confidence was never even bruised.
Cleveland's running back returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since spraining his knee in the first half of the season opener at Pittsburgh on Sept. 7. Wearing a brace for the first time in his career, Tate made several sharp cuts and looked quick during the portion of individual and team drills.
Following the workout, which was moved into the indoor field house because of rain, Tate made it clear he's eager to reclaim his starting job.
''Of course,'' he said. ''If I'm going to be out there, then I want to be that guy.''
Tate ''felt like a kid in a candy store'' being back on the field as the Browns returned from their bye week, but he's not yet certain if he'll be able to play Sunday when the Browns (1-2) visit the Tennessee Titans (1-3).
''We'll see where my knee's at,'' he said. ''We'll see how it goes. It's still early on. I have to go through a full practice and see how it feels. If it feels good, I'll go. If, not we'll wait and see.''
Browns coach Mike Pettine said as long as Tate is healthy and cleared to play, he'll be back on the field.
''If he's ready to go, there's no sense in resting him,'' Pettine said. ''He told us last week that if we had a game yesterday it would have been possible he could have gone. It just leads us to believe that it shouldn't be an issue this week, but we still need to get him a full week of practice and see how the knee responds to it.''
If there was any positive to Tate missing two games it was that Cleveland's rushing attack barely missed a beat. Rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell - nicknamed the ''Baby Backs'' - stepped in and performed well in his absence. West replaced Tate against the Steelers and finished with 100 yards on 16 carries and Crowell scored two touchdowns in the Browns' 30-27 loss.
Through three games, West, a third-round draft pick, has 204 yards and two TDs and Crowell, an undrafted free agent, is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and scored three times.
Tate, who dismissed West during training as being any threat to his job, has enjoyed watching his young teammates learn on the fly.
''I'm proud of those guys,'' Tate said. ''I believe in myself and I know what I can do and I believe in my talents. I'm never one of those guys that wants to hate on the next guy. I'm proud of what they've done, but I also think they could have done a better job, too, and I let those guys know that because the better they are, the better this team's going to be.''
But while Tate's enthused about Cleveland's sudden depth at running back, there may not be enough carries to satisfy this trio.
For Tate, two's a couple. Three's a crowd.
''Three? I don't know about three,'' Tate said when asked about the crowded backfield. ''That's tough to have three running backs. As a running back you want to get into a rhythm, so it's tough to have three, but two? Yeah, I definitely think two running backs works.''
Tate said he's still ''feeling my way'' with wearing the brace and doesn't know if he'll keep it on during games.
He was quick to point out that Adrian Peterson wasn't restricted by his knee brace.
''A.P. played with it and had 200 yards one game,'' Tate said. ''Did you see that? It's all mental. But if that's going to protect me and if that's what I know is best for me, whatever I've got to do to get that mental aspect of it, I'll do it and play with it. But if not, we'll see where it goes.''
NOTES: DL Desmond Bryant didn't practice because of an unspecified injury. Pettine said the 6-foot-6, 310-pounder is ''a little nicked up.'' ... Long snapper Christian Yount could be under even more pressure. The team signed long snapper Charley Hughlett to its practice squad. Yount has had a bad snap in each of Cleveland's first three games. Hughlett was signed as a free agent by Dallas in 2012. He's spent time with the Cowboys, Patriots and Jaguars. ... TE Jordan Cameron said the bye week was good for his sore right shoulder, but ''probably better for my mind. I hadn't seen my son in two months. I was happy to see him and take him to school and play the dad role.''
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