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Friday, October 27, 2006
GM: Browns dealing with 'staph infection outbreak'

Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio -- Browns center LeCharles Bentley was recently hospitalized with a staph infection following season-ending knee surgery, raising concerns of contamination at Cleveland's training facility.

LeCharles Bentley

Bentley's infection is the fifth known case of staph for a Browns player in the past three years, a pattern general manager Phil Savage described as "a staph infection outbreak."

Since 2003, linebacker Ben Taylor, wide receiver Braylon Edwards, safety Brian Russell and tight end Kellen Winslow had various strains of staph, a bacteria that enters the body through the skin and can cause serious health problems.

"There's something going on around here," said Winslow, who contracted staph following knee surgery after a motorcycle accident last year. "A lot of people have had it. They need to do something."

Bentley, a former Pro Bowler and the Browns' prized free agent signing last offseason, tore his patellar tendon during the club's first 11-on-11 play of training camp on July 27 and had surgery the following day.

Savage said Bentley came down with the infection after the operation and had the infection cleaned out on Aug. 28. Savage said Bentley was hospitalized for "a significant amount of time."

Bentley, who signed a six-year, $36 million contract in March, was already facing a long recovery from his knee injury. Savage doesn't feel the staph infection has slowed Bentley's comeback significantly.

"It shouldn't be a huge setback," he said. "We'll have a better idea in February."

Savage also refused to give any details on right offensive tackle Ryan Tucker's absence from the team. On Thursday, coach Romeo Crennel said Tucker, who hasn't been with the team since Sunday's loss to Denver, had a "medical illness."

"We're not at liberty to discuss it," Savage said. "You start breaking laws when you talk about these medical and injury situations."

Savage said Bentley's infection sent them to the Cleveland Clinic, the club's longtime health-care provider and current sponsor, for answers.

"We asked them to review our building, our practices, their facilities, a full review," he said.

"They have since come back to us and informed us that their conclusion is that any of the cases we've had have been unrelated and the Browns have done everything possible to prevent any kind of infections in our locker room, on the field, in the indoor [facility], all those things."

People can get staph from contaminated objects, and the infection can be spread by skin-to-skin contact.

The Browns aren't the first NFL team to have battle staph, which has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

Earlier this year, the Washington Redskins hired a company to treat their practice facility in Ashburn, Va., with a spray that controls the growth of bacteria and mold. Before the spraying to combat MRSA -- a potent form of staph -- the team installed new carpeting and painted its locker room, weight room and training room.

In 2003, five St. Louis Rams who suffered turf burns developed a type of staph infection resistant to the common antibiotic of methicillin. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine last year said a few members of the San Francisco 49ers developed infections after playing the Rams.

Dr. Steven Gordon, the Cleveland Clinic's chairman of infectious control, said the Browns' cases were isolated.

"They weren't all MRSA. There was no evidence of clustering," he said. "Each of these cases stand on their own."

Savage said the club doesn't plan to bring in an independent consultant to address the staph situation.

"Our partner is the Cleveland Clinic," he said. "We've trusted them with the medical care of our players. We're trusting the clinic that they're on top of this."

The Browns have discussed the possibility of staph being present on the field turf in their indoor practice facility.

"It's like grass, but a guy sweats and he spits and all that rubberized material is down in there," Savage said. "It's something the high-ups are probably looking into on a league-wide scale."