Ben Tate: 'I don't think I've changed'

BEREA, Ohio -- Ben Tate on Sunday will face his former team, the Houston Texans, with no idea how many carries he'll get.

That's not an ideal reality for Tate, who said "I'd be lying" if the Cleveland Browns' three-back rotation that came to life Thursday at Cincinnati was satisfying for him personally.

Tate, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West each scored a touchdown against the Bengals, with West leading the crew with 26 carries compared to 12 for Crowell and 10 for Tate.

Tate acknowledged he'd prefer being a 20-carry-a-game player, which he expected to be when signing a two-year deal in the offseason worth a reported $7 million.

"It's not [satisfying]," said Tate, who has 342 yards and four scores on 104 carries this season for the AFC North-leading Browns (6-3). "But whatever the organization thinks is best for the team, that's what they are going to do."

Tate was explosive in Weeks 5 and 6, combining for 202 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh and Tennessee. Since then, he's registered 99 yards on 51 carries. The Browns have involved him in the passing game the past two weeks with six receptions for 56 yards. Crowell, an undrafted rookie, leads the team with five touchdowns despite only 64 carries, the lowest workload of the three. West, a third-round pick in May, has re-emerged after falling out of the rotation in October.

Tate said the Browns indicated he'd be the workhorse for the offense, which he's been for much of the season but not in back-to-back 10-carry games. He said the running game's emergence Thursday -- 170 yards on 52 attempts -- was a byproduct of better play across the board, from the backs to the offensive line.

"The player I was against Tennessee, I don't think I've changed," said Tate, referring to his two-touchdown performance against the Titans. "I don't think I've gotten a step slower all of a sudden. I think it's just a combination of everything."

The emergence of West and Crowell has contributed to the sporadic rotation. Tate said both other players have gotten better throughout the season. Tate isn't going full-blast mode on the Browns, acknowledging, "You look like the bad guy." Tate and Crowell both said this week that they find out the Browns' tailback distribution plans during the game when they are called onto the field. The production is not outlined beforehand. That's not always easy.

"We're winning. We're 6-3, in first place," said Tate, who rushed for 1,992 yards and 10 touchdowns over three seasons as Arian Foster's backup in Houston. "That's all that really matters."

Getting a read on the Browns' weekly tailback plans is an arduous task, but they won't give up on Tate, who understands Cleveland's zone-blocking scheme and brings a veteran presence. It seems the Browns are looking for big plays, carries of 20-plus yards, to ease the tension on the passing game. That's in part why Crowell and West keep getting chances.

Coach Mike Pettine said all three backs have been productive and are "team guys."

"When their number's called, they have to step up and respond," Pettine said. "I'm not going to get too wrapped up in the psychology behind it. They are professionals."