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Browns RB Nyheim Hines (knee) aims for training camp return, wants to be 'the offensive threat that I am'

Ten months after a fluke accident that derailed his 2023 season before it could even begin, Cleveland Browns running back Nyheim Hines is ready to build on where he was pre-injury.

Hines tore his ACL last July while on a jet ski after being hit by another rider and subsequently spent the entire 2023 campaign on the Buffalo Bills' injured reserve list.

"I processed what happened to me as not a blessing in disguise, but it's something you learn from," Hines said this week, via team transcripts. "Honestly, this is the hardest thing in my life, and I truly believe that everything is on the other side of hard ... So if I can get through this hard part, I think the best times are coming for me."

Having signed with Cleveland this offseason, Hines told reporters this week that he would not be practicing during OTAs, but expects to be ready for minicamp around the end of July with the goal still to be on the field for Week 1.

Hines has seen time as a running back and return specialist since he was drafted by the Colts in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. In four-plus years in Indy, Hines accumulated 300 carries for 1,205 yards along with 235 catches for 1,725 yards in largely a backup role, also adding 1,125 yards between punt and kickoff returns.

After being traded to the Bills midway through the 2022 season, he was used more as a returner, including in a memorable Week 18 win where he had kickoff returns of 96 yards and 101 yards for touchdowns. He was expected to have a larger role in 2023, before his knee injury put a wrench in those plans.

Hines hopes to return to making an impact in the return game with his new squad, saying he believes the kickoff rule change this year could "favor" players like him, but he's not planning on settling for just a special teams role.

"I mean, I'm not the biggest guy in the world, but I'm not going to be scared," Hines said. "I'm going to put my head down there. I'm known for my pass catching abilities, so the return specialist thing was kind of disrespectful, honestly, I don't know. I don't know any other return specialist who has over 230 catches in five years.

"So, I think people kind of forgot that in Buffalo I was traded, only played 10 games there, had to learn a new offense, didn't have the opportunity last year to play. So, I'm really excited to go out there and prove the offensive threat I am. And I'm just as big of a threat on offense as I am in the return game if it's passing, catching, kicking, or in empty."

He'll be competing for a role in the running back corps behind Nick Chubb and Jerome Ford, though Chubb is also working toward his own return from a serious knee injury. Chubb tore his MCL and damaged his ACL in Week 2 of last season, and Hines said he's been learning from Chubb as they walk their similar recovery paths.

"We rehabbed together my first couple weeks here, so it was great just to be with somebody and just rehab with the guys, honestly, just being a part of the running back room,": Hines said. "And obviously, Nick is one of the best backs in the league, so I can't wait to learn from him. We came out together, known him for a while now, so I'm super excited to work with him, and it's helped me out a lot mentally."

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