Cleveland Browns running back Ben Tate returned to the practice field on Tuesday in individual drills. He will go through team drills later this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. After practice, when head coach Mike Pettine was asked whether Tate will start if he's healthy, Pettine was clear and concise: "Yes."
Given the team's depth at running back, Pettine said that he and the coaching staff would evaluate how things go with Tate this week to determine whether he's ready-to-go against the Titans or if he'll need another week.
"We’ll make that decision at the end of the week. If he’s ready to go, there’s no sense resting him. 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."
Tate appreciates the faith that the coaching staff is putting in him by naming him the starter despite the success rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell have had over the first three games, leading the Browns to the 10th highest rushing total in the NFL.
"It means that all that work I put in during the summer, obviously means something. I think that’s what is important – not to knock those guys but anyone can have a great game or two. It’s how you put it together throughout the season. I think I’ve done that in this league. It’s good for them to get that experience. I think it helps our room get better. As the position groups get better, that’s only going to help our team."
When Tate was asked about the Browns using a trio of running backs on Sunday, that idea didn't fly with Tate, who felt that teams should stick with a two-back system to ensure both backs receive enough reps to get into a rhythm:
"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 will be wearing a knee brace during practice but has yet to determine whether he'll go with it when he gets into a game.