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WR Austin Healthy, Ready To Compete

Posted Jun 2, 2015

There was nothing unusual about the play at the time, other than it was the first NFL completion for Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. For Miles Austin, though, days later after emerging from the hospital, everything changed ...

There was nothing unusual about the play at the time, other than it was the first NFL completion for Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. For Miles Austin, though, days later after emerging from the hospital, everything changed.

Second down, 7 yards to go for Cleveland in a going-nowhere game last November 30 in Orchard Park, NY against the Buffalo Bills. Cleveland trailed 20-3 and replaced quarterback Brian Hoyer with Manziel, and the NFL world took notice. On Manziel's second play from scrimmage after a 3-yard scramble, he faked a handoff right and rolled left. Manziel flipped a pass to Austin, who turned up the field and headed for a first down. Ten yards past the line of scrimmage, Austin leaped over defensive back Da'Norris Searcy and landed in bounds and was promptly knocked down and out of bounds by linebacker Preston Brown.

Twelve-yard gain. First down. Austin popped up and quickly got back to the line of scrimmage and remained in the game as if nothing happened out of the ordinary.

But something did. Somewhere along the line -- Austin thinks it happened when he landed on the artificial turf in Buffalo -- the veteran wide receiver suffered a lacerated kidney. As his Browns teammates flew back to Cleveland that night after a 20-10 defeat, Austin was taken to a Buffalo hospital for observation. What the doctors observed was blood in Austin's urine and not until Wednesday night, when the diagnosis was a lacerated kidney and the recovery was assured, did Austin leave Buffalo.

"It was scary for a while until they learned what happened and determined that I was going to be fine, and that I was going to heal just fine," said Austin, who caught seven passes in his final game of 2014. "It was really frustrating being in the hospital for three days in a hospital bed, feeling real claustrophobic. Thankfully my wife was at the game in Buffalo and was able to stay.

"But it's like anything. You go through ups and downs in life and you've got to bounce back. At first it's a little difficult, but like anything, through time you get over it."

Austin said the initial pain was "like a stomach ache" but when he urinated dark blood after the game, he immediately alerted team doctors. The Browns shut Austin down for the season, and career next steps were not clear.

The Eagles signed Austin in late March to a one-year deal to add experience and competition to the wide receiver group. Once again, Austin is preparing for a career resurrection, something he has done throughout his football life.

A star at Monmouth (N.J.) University, Austin signed with Dallas in 2006 and began his career as a kickoff return man. For three seasons he returned kickoffs and got some time at wide receiver and then in 2009, Austin exploded. He recorded 81 catches for the Cowboys, gained 1,320 yards and scored 11 touchdowns on his way to his first of back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances.

Hamstring injuries in 2011 and 2013 limited Austin, and after that 2013 campaign he was done in Dallas. Last year was going along well with Cleveland in an offense-starved situation until the injury. Austin finished the year with 47 catches for 568 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Next step? Keep on playing.

"I think about the entire spectrum of life daily," Austin said. "I didn't have, 'Man, I'm done playing' kind of thoughts, but it was definitely a thought of, 'Man, this is something I've got to overcome, just like other things I've overcome.' Another chapter of my life. I'm 30 years old now." 

Where does Austin fit here? That remains to be seen. He's here on a one-year deal with a lot to prove. But Austin hasn't ever had a thing handed to him, so that concept is nothing new. Playing again with former Dallas teammate DeMarco Murray, a great friend, is part of the package and a reason for signing with the Eagles.

Austin showed in Tuesday's Organized Team Activity session that he can still run, chasing down a Matt Barkley throw down the field. But Austin's game is more possession than speed. He's got some size, a strong body, excellent hands and he can go up and get the football.

And for a young wide receiver like Jordan Matthews, Austin proves an invaluable resource.

"He's a baller," Matthews said. "He's played a long time, so he's got some Miles on him."

Pause for comedic impact.

"Great player," Matthews sontinued. "Dude, the second that him and DeMarco walked into the locker room, nothing but energy. Great guys. Miles, it's like having another coach in that meeting room. He's not just able to tell me things like Coach (Bob) Bicknell, he's able to come out here and show me how to do them consistently. The main thing he's been teaching me this whole time is patience. When you're a free-agent guy, you've got to have patience on the field and off and bring that mentality out to the field. He's shown me some things as far as release moves. He's my weight-room partner, so he's one of those guys I can really lean on."

Austin wants to be more than a mentor, of course. He wants to make the team. He wants to contribute. He wants to make this a special season.

"I'm out there every day not thinking about my situation," he said. "I've been through it all. I've learned that if you give it everything you have every day, good things will happen. I love it here and I feel good. I have a long way to go. More to learn. It's not completely natural to me quite yet, but I'm getting there."

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