BEREA, Ohio -- For nearly five minutes, Braylon Edwards was his swaggering self.
Bursting, as always, with confidence, Cleveland's wide receiver met with reporters Wednesday for the first time since severely cutting his right foot during a post-practice mishap on Aug. 9, an injury that sidelined him for more than three weeks. Edwards assured everyone he'll be ready for Sunday's opener against Dallas.
"Next question," he snapped.
"I think we can be tremendous," he chirped.
Only when he was walking away did Edwards show any vulnerability. As he headed toward the locker room door, Edwards was asked if he felt lucky that his injury wasn't worse.
"Whew," he said. "Not even a question, it was so close to my Achilles."
Perhaps Edwards' near miss is a sign of good things to come for the Browns, who narrowly missed the playoffs last season and have drawn a stiff first-week test in the Super Bowl-ready Cowboys. Cleveland's odds of pulling off a Week 1 upset aren't great, but they would have been almost impossible without Edwards, who set career highs with 80 catches, 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
Edwards returned to practice Monday along with Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson, who has recovered from a concussion suffered on Aug. 18 against the New York Giants. Running back Jamal Lewis is also near full speed after missing two weeks with a hamstring injury. He was limited during Wednesday's workout.
Anderson said he has felt OK "for a week now" and is excited about getting the season started. A year ago at this time, he was a backup to Charlie Frye heading into the '07 season opener against Pittsburgh. On Wednesday, he was selected as one of six captains in a vote by Browns players.
"It's a great honor," Anderson said. "I try to make sure I'm a positive leader, a positive presence for all these guys. It's just special."
Edwards said he and Anderson had no trouble shaking off the rust during their first practice despite not being on the field together for weeks.
They spent the offseason working on their timing and Edwards expects them to be roaring by kickoff Sunday.
"It's not a concern," Edwards said. "D.A. and I have been playing together for a while now. We got a chance to get into a rhythm early on this year. He and I are in somewhat of a rhythm and coming back out there we felt good when we ran our routes. I don't think it will be too bad. We have some days to get ready, we'll be all right."
But Cleveland's hopes for a big season were nearly dashed when Edwards, running sprints in his socks, was stepped on by teammate Donte' Stallworth following practice three weeks ago. Stallworth's cleats ripped through the soft tissue on Edwards' heel, leaving a nasty gash alongside his Achilles tendon that required numerous stitches and an overnight stay in the hospital.
Edwards didn't offer any specifics about the injury. He said it has healed and won't slow him down.
A 6-foot-3, 215-pounder with breakaway speed, the 25-year-old Edwards is often compared to a younger Owens, who at 35 is still one of the NFL's top playmakers. Just as Edwards was asked what it will be like to be on the same field with Owens, he was interrupted by teammate Shaun Smith.
"Bump that," Smith yelled across the locker room. "Tell them you make plays, too, B."
Unable to practice while his foot recovered, Edwards was confined to his home where he watched game film and endless hours of the Beijing Olympics.
"Because of the injury, I had to catch all of it," he said, smiling.
A few years ago, he became friends with Phelps, who trained in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, Edwards' alma mater.
Edwards said he worked out with Phelps, who won eight gold medals in China, for a short time. A very short time.
"Once," he said. "It wasn't fun. First of all, he works out at 6 a.m. He's in the pool by six. Too much swimming. After 30 minutes, I started playing on the diving board."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press