BEREA — Kellen Winslow sprinted onto the field to a rousing ovation, his surgically repaired knee healthy enough for him to practice with the team.
Joe Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick and Northeast Ohio’s newest multimillionaire, lined up as the second-team left tackle, because coach Romeo Crennel doesn’t just hand out starting jobs.
But not everyone was available Friday as 2,000 fans cheered and barked at the opening of Browns training camp.
Cornerback Gary Baxter wasn’t on the field, but is expected to be activated by Monday. It’s the latest step in his remarkable recovery from a pair of torn patellar tendons.
Rookie quarterback Brady Quinn remained the team’s lone holdout, despite intensified negotiations.
And LeCharles Bentley visited team headquarters, but his return to the field was delayed at least four weeks. He underwent a physical, an MRI and met with team officials to plot a course that would get him back on the field after tearing his patellar tendon on the first play of contact drills a year ago during training camp.
“We’re excited about the potential of a LeCharles comeback,” general manager Phil Savage said. “But there’s a certain protocol every player has to meet before he can practice or play.”
Bentley underwent four operations on the knee, as a staph infection attacked the joint and sent him back to the hospital. He did his rehab in Arizona and Columbus and had been absent from team headquarters until the past week. Browns doctors hadn’t examined him until Friday.
Giants team doctor Russell Warren, who performed one of the surgeries, cleared Bentley to practice earlier in the week, but the Browns are being more cautious.
“He’s not quite ready to put on equipment and practice on the field with us,” Savage said. “This is not a contentious situation between the Browns and LeCharles Bentley. It’s not a steel-cage match.”
Jonathan Feinsod, Bentley’s agent, met with Savage on Friday to set the parameters for the continued rehab.
“Everything’s great,” Feinsod said. “We’re moving forward and couldn’t be happier.
“Everybody is on the same page and excited about getting LeCharles back on the field and helping the Browns win football games.”
Savage said Bentley will continue his rehab in Cleveland with the trainer he’s been using in Arizona. The Browns trainer will stay apprised of the progress and Bentley will return to Berea for some meetings.
“We’ll see where we are four weeks from now as far as LeCharles getting on the football field for practice or a game,” Savage said. “We’re hopeful he can do it. Obviously if we can get him back, that would strengthen our team.”
While Bentley has been open in expressing his eagerness to return, the Browns are trying to temper the excitement.
“He looks good. But my job is to try to be realistic,” Crennel said. “I mentioned to him how tough it may be coming back. He says he wants to take the chance. We’re not going to be crazy about it.”
While much of Savage’s attention was on Bentley and Quinn — “He’s a priority for us. A deal will get done in due time,” Savage said — Crennel, the players and fans were focused on the field.
The biggest story line of camp will be the battle for the starting quarterback spot, and incumbent Charlie Frye has the early edge.
“He has a leg up, sure,” said Crennel, who added he doesn’t have a drop-dead date to name the starter. “He’s played in more games. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a competition.”
Frye lined up with the No. 1 offense, but wasn’t impressed.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “The only thing that’s going to matter is who lines up under center Sept. 9.”
That’s when Pittsburgh will visit the lakefront for the regular-season opener. Savage thinks the NFL will see an improved version of the Browns.
“People will be able to see that the pieces are coming together, that there are a number of pieces in place and it’s just a matter of time before the Browns are a legitimate, contending team,” he said.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
PRACTICE: 8:45-10:45 a.m.
and 5:30-7:30 p.m.
WHAT HAPPENED: The Browns opened training camp Friday with a light one-hour practice featuring no pads or contact.
WHAT’S NEXT: Camp’s first two-a-day starts at 8:45 a.m. today with a two-hour practice in pads. The team will practice again from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
QB DERBY: Charlie Frye lined up with the first-team offense, and coach Romeo Crennel said experience makes him a slight early favorite.
HOLDING OUT: Rookie quarterback Brady Quinn is the team’s lone remaining holdout. GM Phil Savage said negotiations continued Friday and are his No. 1 priority.
EAST COAST BIAS: Rookie second-round pick Eric Wright, who agreed to a four-year deal Thursday night, missed practice. Crennel said his flight from the West Coast didn’t arrive in time and he was expected in later Friday night.
SITTING OUT: Cornerback DeMario Minter will miss 3-4 days with a foot injury. It was in a boot and he was riding the stationary bike.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m not a doctor. I’m not a plumber. Sometimes you just have to trust the information you’ve been given.” – Savage, when asked about the water damage at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
— Scott Petrak