BEREA, Ohio — Not too long ago, Miles Austin was on his way to becoming one of the elite wide receivers in the NFL.
But nagging hamstring injuries got in the way, and the two-time Pro Bowler was released by the Dallas Cowboys after last season.
He has a fresh start with the Browns, though. And through the first four days of camp, he's making the most of it.
"Paths happen in life, things happen. You've gotta overcome adversity," Austin said. "It doesn't matter if you stumble as long as you get back up. Until I'm 60 I'm going to be trying to continue to move in a positive direction."
In his breakout 2009 season, Austin caught 81 passes for 1,320 yards, third-most in the NFL. His 11 touchdowns were tied for fourth that season. He followed that performance in 2010 with 69 catches for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns while starting all 16 games.
Austin quickly became quarterback Tony Romo's go-to option and even managed to score seven touchdowns in 2011 in just 10 games, as the hamstring injuries began to take their toll.
Coming into the league as an undrafted free agent, he's always had the mentality to give everything — every game, every practice — his all. And regardless of his past, he'll be fighting as hard as anybody on the field.
"I'm a competitive person, I'm laid-back but highly competitive," Austin said. "So I'm going to go out there and try to win. If it's a scrappy-type practice, I'm going to get scrappy."
It also helps that Austin has come into camp the healthiest he's felt in a while.
"I feel good physically, which is a positive thing. I think it's the most important thing regardless of what the actual results are for me," Austin said. "I just want to continue to get more and more reps, more and more plays, know the offense more and more, and just continue to work on my technique."
Aside from hydrating as much as he can and altering his pre- and post-workout routine, Austin is sure he's the same player he's always been. And he won't be changing anything that helped him become the 10th undrafted free agent in NFL history to earn two 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
"You run the play that's called. I'm not going to change or anything like that," Austin said.
His fellow wide receivers are noticing the work ethic.
"Miles is the man," Nate Burleson said. "He came out here the last couple of days and shown why he was so good in Dallas. He wants to prove that he can stay healthy and make plays."
That means he'd be willing to play whatever role the Browns need him in, especially as the team awaits the potential suspension of wide receiver Josh Gordon.
"I felt like sometimes I was in the slot a lot more often the last couple of years in Dallas," Austin said. "Whatever is asked of me I'm going to go out there and try to make the best of it."
The issue with his hamstrings will always be lingering; they have been too persistent in his career to ignore. But for now, Austin feels good and is making his presence known early in Browns training camp.
Still playing the game like an undrafted free agent eager to prove his worth, Austin doesn't consider himself a victim of bad luck.
In fact, it's just the opposite. He's just glad to get another chance to play the game.
"I don't know how much I believe in luck," Austin said. "If I did believe strongly in luck, I'd feel like I was pretty lucky."
NOTES: Practice was physical, as a number of skirmishes broke out between the offense and defense. "You don't want one side of the ball to get bullied by the other. There has to be some pushback," coach Mike Pettine said. .... Pettine ended practice with a drill in which the offense had to gain 20 yards against the defense. In a best-of-five format, the side that prevailed won the right to wear orange jerseys Thursday. The defense won the day, stopping the offense on three of its first four tries. ... Veteran LB Karlos Dansby sat out practice Tuesday. ... TE Gary Barnidge returned to practice after failing the team's conditioning tests. ... Newly acquired WR Marlon Moore wore No. 15.