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Rashard Higgins enjoying personal and team success after rough years

Rashard Higgins is sick of experiencing the playoffs vicariously.

He’s ready to live the dream, and is doing his part to get the Browns to the postseason for the first time since 2002.

“Yeah, I want to get to them playoffs,” the receiver said this week. “I want to see what it feels like. I have always asked friends that were before my time and guys that have been here. When Taylor Gabriel went to the Atlanta Falcons and then he went to the Super Bowl, I just asked him, ‘What does it feel like?’

“I always want to be in that moment. Whatever I can do to help this team get there, I am all for it. I want to win games and I want to see this team prevail and overcome the 0-16. I have been here, and to hell with losing. It is not fun at all. To see the other side of losing, it is amazing. It is a helluva feeling having nine wins right now.”

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Higgins’ perseverance is one of the reasons he’s a fan favorite. His journey with the Browns has been filled with potholes, yet he chose to return this season for the veteran minimum of $910,000. He’s been repaid with a significant role for a team 9-3 and holding a wild card spot.

He arrived in 2016 as a fifth-round draft pick out of Colorado State, was cut before his second season, returned on the practice squad, developed a connection with Baker Mayfield and had a strong 2018 season, then spent most of 2019 in Freddie Kitchens’ doghouse. He was even a healthy inactive twice early this season.

Oh, yeah, he’s one of seven players still on the team who lived through 0-16 in 2017.

“It makes everything much sweeter, way much sweeter, knowing that I have been patient and that my time has come now,” Higgins said. “So what it took longer than I expected, it still came and I worked my ass off to get here, and I am not going to stop working.”

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Higgins has filled in admirably since Odell Beckham Jr. was lost for the season Oct. 25 in Cincinnati. Higgins has 25 catches for 400 yards (second on the team), a 16.0 average and three touchdowns in 10 games. In six games since Beckham’s torn anterior cruciate ligament, Higgins has 20 catches for 347 yards, a 17.4 average and a touchdown.

He had six catches for 95 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown, last week in the 41-35 win over the Titans.

“He has been an important part of what we have done offensively, especially in the pass game,” pass game coordinator/receivers coach Chad O’Shea said Saturday. “He has done a really good job, as he has done all season, of working extremely hard. That is where it starts with Rashard is that he really both on field and in the classroom just works so hard.”

He reached 100 catches and 10 touchdowns for his career in Tennessee and has further established himself as a trusted target for Mayfield and coach/play caller Kevin Stefanski.

“I might not be the fastest and I might not be the best route runner, but at the end of the day, I try to catch the ball and I try to catch everything that comes to me,” Higgins said. “I see coaches see that if we can count on him to catch the ball, then we can throw him out there and have the utmost faith in him in catching the ball and do it at a high level.”

He described his chemistry and relationship with Mayfield as “special” and credited Stefanski with putting them in position to succeed.

“There are routes that he knows that I am good at, and we have those plays in,” Higgins said. “He knows my strengths and he plays to my strengths. As I evolve and I start doing good in the offense, it is because Coach knows me now. Baker puts it on the money. I make him look good, and he makes me look good.”

Stefanski was impressed that Higgins didn’t sulk or waver when he wasn’t playing much early.

“I am happy that he is getting his opportunities, and he is making the most of them,” Stefanski said. “He is versatile. We can line him up in different places. He is in the right spot at the right time and makes the catch. We are going to be counting on him here in this game and the next one, and he understands that.” 

The Browns host the Ravens (7-5) on Monday night looking to extend their winning streak to five games, further enhance their playoff probability and severely weaken their rival’s chances. The Ravens have a formidable set of cornerbacks with Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith, who’s questionable to return this week after a groin injury. Higgins, Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones are going to have to beat press man coverage.

“Big, physical guys on the outside and some Pro Bowlers there,” coordinator Alex Van Pelt said of the Ravens. “We are going to have to run great routes and be very disciplined.”

NFL reporter Josina Anderson tweeted this week the Browns have had preliminary discussions with Higgins’ agent about a contract extension.

“I have not heard anything from my agent about any contracts yet,” he said. “I am just going to continue to work, put my head down and do what I have to do to help this team win. I would love to be here.”

He’s grateful for the opportunity.

“I just try to always keep that mindset and know that people would die to be in my shoes,” he said. “I know I would do anything to be in my shoes. Try not to be complacent.”

The same holds true for the Browns, despite their surprising record.

“There is still this feeling in the locker room of like, ‘You know what? Yeah, we won, but we still have not accomplished anything yet,’” he said.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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