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CLEVELAND -- Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar believes he was removed as a TV commentator for the team's preseason games because of slurred speech he attributes to concussions sustained in the NFL.
The Browns announced Wednesday that Kosar is being replaced with Solomon Wilcots. The team says it is exploring other media roles for Kosar, who remains one of the most popular players in franchise history.
Kosar made a request to WKYC to be reinstated, but the station's president and general manager Brooke Spectorsky said in a statement the decision to replace Kosar will stand.
Kosar said through a prepared statement that his removal "stems from my slurred speech impairment, which is a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL."
He described the situation as unfortunate and said doing the preseason games is "truly one of the remaining joys in my life."
"Nowhere in our discussions with Bernie or the Browns has anything ever been said about his speech impairment due to concussions," Spectorsky said in the statement. "That has simply nothing to do with our decision. The Browns are rebuilding their team, and in reviewing our programming we've decided to rebuild as well. We felt there was a better role for Bernie than doing just four preseason games and we completely understand Bernie's iconic status with Browns fans. I know Bernie has made statements that he felt that these moves were due to his speech issues, and I reiterate that is not the case."
Kosar played for Cleveland from 1985-92 and retired in 1996. The gangly quarterback from Boardman, Ohio, led Cleveland to three AFC title games. He remains one of Cleveland's most beloved sports figures.
|Bernie Kosar says his slurred speech is due to concussions suffered during his playing career.|
"I love to put the personal touch, pride in the Browns, and pride in our Cleveland community into the broadcast,'' he said. "Being able to share these preseason games with my fellow Cleveland Browns fans is truly one of the remaining joys in my life.
"I would hope that WKYC would reconsider utilizing my in-game talents and overlook my concussion-induced impairment. I want everyone to know that I still bleed Brown and Orange.''
Last summer, Kosar drew criticism for in-game comments about former St. Louis Rams third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens, the team's receivers and assistant coach Ray Sherman.
St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said of Kosar: "I lost a lot of respect for him. It's highly unlikely he knew anything about our football team, but felt the need to make those comments. I don't think they were justified.''
The Browns apologized to the Rams and reprimanded Kosar.
Last October, Kosar was arrested in Solon, Ohio, on drunken driving charges. The police report said he refused to take a field sobriety test. Kosar told an officer he couldn't do so because he has had several operations on his knees and ankles.
According to the report, Kosar gave the officer two credit cards when asked to show his driver's license. Kosar had slurred speech and difficulty speaking.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.