KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Austin Reiter's first NFL start for the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 of the 2016 season was memorable, but not for the reason he wanted.
“We had 3 minutes left in the fourth quarter, came down wrong, got stepped on from behind, ACL,” explained Reiter, who saw his season end with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Reiter made that start filling in for injured Browns center Cam Erving, who will lineup along his left side at guard on Sunday.
“He played well, then he got hurt up there,” Erving said. “Looking forward to just him being able to get out here and play some football again.”
Reiter entered the NFL as a seventh-round selection for Washington in the 2015 draft from South Florida. The 6-3, 300-pound Reiter started all 12 games at center his senior season, missing just one snap. He won the team's best offensive lineman award as well as the team's “Tough Man Award” due to his reputation as an iron man for playing nearly every down in 36 games as a starter his final three seasons in college.
He spent most of the 2015 season on the Washington practice squad, and started the 2016 season on the club's active roster before a whirlwind of events changed his future. Washington released Reiter on Sept. 13, and re-signed him to their practice squad the next day. On Sept. 18, Erving suffered a pulmonary contusion in a Week 2 contest against Baltimore. Two days later the Browns came calling, and he found himself in the starting lineup the following week.
Reiter returned from his ACL injury and played all 16 games primarily on special teams last season. The Browns waived him during the final cut down to 53 players following this year's preseason, and the Chiefs claimed him, reuniting him with Erving.
“Cam's an awesome guy, great to play with, really helped me when I got there,” Reiter said.
Erving called Reiter a smart guy and a good football player who can step in and keep league's top-scoring offense rolling without missing a beat.
“Austin knows what's going on,” Erving said. “We have a really good thing going with our offense and our offensive line within the unit. It's just about communicating and going out there and executing the offense.”
Reiter spent the first five games of the preseason among the inactives, but that changed when a series of injuries began striking the offensive line. First center Mitch Morse went down, followed by backup Jordan Devey. The club began getting Reiter some work snaps with the first-team offense as a precaution.
“When Mitch got the concussion and Jordan was starting, probably five to eight every practice with the actual ones,” Reiter said about his snaps during practice last week. This week, he took virtually all the snaps with the first-team offense.
He got the call he anticipated when a strange number appeared on his cell phone. It was Chiefs general manager Brett Veach.
“I didn't have his number,” Reiter said. “He texted me, 'Hey, it's Veach calling,' and we had a great conversation there for a couple of minutes.”
Despite being with the club just eight weeks, Reiter has fit himself in quickly with the offensive line group. He feels ready for his new role as a starter.
“I know what that assignments are and everything,” Reiter said. “I think the biggest thing at the beginning of the week the communication part of it, when to talk, when to say the calls, just kind of the fluidity of that.”
Erving said Reiter performed well during practice his week.
“He knows the offense and he's been here for a few weeks now,” Erving said. “He's a good football player so he understands things conceptually. So it was easy for him to step in and just have a good week of practice.”
Reiter said Morse and Devey both game him support ahead of his first start.
“They said, 'You'll do fine,'” Reiter said. “A lot of confidence from the guys in the room with me, so that's very good.”