BEREA, Ohio One of the few remaining ambulatory tight ends on the Cleveland Browns roster, six-year veteran Steve Heiden walked though the locker room on Tuesday afternoon sporting a T-shirt that bore the following message across its back: "Get Your Mind Right."
But as the Browns conclude a mini-camp this week, the final mandatory activity before training camp starts in late July, it's the bodies at tight end or, more accurately, the dwindling numbers that are of far more concern.
Head coach Romeo Crennel revealed following practice that three-year veteran Keith Heinrich had undergone surgery earlier in the day to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament -- the same day that Kellen Winslow underwent a procedure to repair the ACL tear that he sustained during his now-infamous motorcycle accident.
No word yet as to whether Winslow and Heinrich flipped a coin to see who was going to be wheeled into the operating room first, where team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Anthony Miniaci was to perform his handiwork. Like Winslow, Heinrich is expected to miss the entire 2005 season.
"Maybe we are a little jinxed (at tight end)," allowed Heiden, who figures to again share the position with Aaron Shea. "We've sure had some problems, haven't we?"
The Browns signed free agent Keith Willis last week, giving them a fourth healthy tight end on the roster. But Willis and rookie free agent Paul Irons have zero regular-season appearances between them, leaving the bulk of the work once again to Heiden and Shea.
In truth, the pair is considerably better than most outsiders likely realize. They're part of what cornerback Gary Baxter, one of the Browns' key offseason free agency additions, refers to as the "hidden talent" on the roster. Last season, with Winslow sidelined for the final 14 games because of a broken ankle, Shea and Heiden combined for 54 receptions and nine touchdown catches. If they can duplicate those numbers, the Cleveland coaches likely will be pleased, said Crennel, who was typically pragmatic about the loss of Winslow.
On Monday, the 2004 first-rounder acknowledged, in an interview with the Akron (Ohio) Beacon-Journal, that he was "aware" that his contract stipulated that he could not ride a motorcycle, and that doing so could breach the pact.
Winslow also confirmed his injuries: lacerations to the liver and kidney, a bruised right shoulder and hairline fracture to the right femur, in addition to the ligament damage to his right knee. With the exception of the ACL tear, he said, all the injuries have healed.
"I was knocked out for like two minutes, and my feeling was that I was all right," he told the newspaper. "I just fell off. I thought I just bruised my knee because it was kind of stiff. It was kind of painful. I knew I messed my arm up pretty good, but I thought it was just, you know I knew I was going to fall, and I thought I was just going to get right back up."
The former University of Miami star, and the sixth player chosen overall in the '04 draft, Winslow said he still aspires to be "the best ever" at the tight end spot and emphasized he wants to play his career in Cleveland, despite his rocky start.
"I can only gain from this," Winslow said. "My back's up against the wall and I'm going to get stronger."
Sources said that the Browns organization will formally apprise Winslow, this week and in writing, that he is technically in default of his contract. ESPN.com reported last month that the Browns will seek to recover part of the bonus money already paid to Winslow and will withhold some future scheduled payments.
The team will not, however, take that action for a while yet.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.