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Thursday, December 11, 2008
Winslow wants to return to Browns

Associated Press

BEREA, Ohio -- Kellen Winslow was reluctant to talk, what with his tongue being a past problem.

But the talented tight end, whose badly sprained left ankle will likely keep him off the field the remainder of Cleveland's schedule, decided to sit down at his locker stall on Wednesday and address his disappointing season with the Browns.

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He hopes it's not his last one.

Despite the Browns' shocking slide and the uncertainty leading into an upcoming offseason of probable change, Winslow wants to stay in Cleveland.

"I love being a Cleveland Brown," he said. "The guys here, we don't know who's going to be here next year. You just have to focus on this year. That's all you can do. ... I do want to be back here. I love being here. I love playing here. The fans have stuck by me."

Although Winslow's ankle remains swollen - he hurt it in a Nov. 30 game against Indianapolis - and he has a sprained right shoulder, the oft-injured 25-year-old is winding down this season in better shape than he has in some time. Winslow doesn't anticipate needing any surgeries, a welcome change after having multiple procedures on his right knee in recent years.

During an interview he initially turned down, Winslow revealed for the first time that noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews worked on his knee last winter.

Winslow hasn't given up on playing again this season. He is continuing to get treatment and has been strengthening his ankle in hopes of avoiding his third trip to the reserve-injured list since joining the NFL in 2004. Injuries have already cost him nearly two complete seasons.

"I can come back, but I want to be healthy enough to help my team win," he said. "I don't want to just be out there to be out there. I want to help my team win."

Browns coach Romeo Crennel said the club has discussed shutting Winslow down.

"We have talked about it," he said. "Our range is anywhere from 3-to-6 weeks. He wants to have the opportunity to see if it will get better. If it will get better I think he would like to try to play. We are playing it by ear and seeing what happens."

In an implausible season filled with drama and defeat, Winslow's ugly feud with Cleveland's front office over his hospitalization for a staph infection was perhaps the club's most embarrassing moment. He was briefly suspended for making disparaging remarks about the Browns, who later rescinded their one-game penalty.

Still, the disagreement left a mark and is fueling speculation that Winslow, who came into the 2008 season seeking a contract extension, will continue his career elsewhere.

Winslow's future in Cleveland may hinge on what moves owner Randy Lerner decides to make following his offseason review of Crennel and general manager Phil Savage. Winslow would not comment directly on what impact the futures of Crennel and Savage would have on him staying with the Browns, but he seemed to take a swipe at Savage.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "All I can focus on is my rehab. Whatever happens, happens. ... Mr. Lerner and I have a very good relationship. I'm very happy with him."

There's no denying Winslow's talent. Even with the injuries, his speed and sure hands make him one of the league's premier tight ends.

However, his checkered medical history and tendency to be a distraction could force the Browns to move him.

Winslow's current contract runs through the 2010 season. He's scheduled to make $4.5 million in 2009, and $4.75 million the following year. Winslow, who made his first Pro Bowl last season after catching 82 passes for 1,106 yards, was asked if he was confident his contract issues could be worked out.

"I hired [agent] Drew Rosenhaus for that. That's his job. I might just want to go and reach free agency," he said, laughing. "Who knows?"

If his season is over, Winslow will finish with 43 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns - hardly the type of numbers the son of a Hall of Famer was expecting.

But Winslow couldn't have imagined the Browns being 4-9 or that they would lose quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn to season-ending injuries, or that former college teammate Ken Dorsey would wind up as Cleveland's starting QB.

Nothing has gone as planned.

"It's been a tough year all along, through the stuff that's happened to me, it just hasn't gone my way," he said. "I'm going to continue to fight and try to be a consistent player."

Only time will tell if he'll try in Cleveland.