BEREA — Double coverage. Fans taunting him on the road. Comparisons to his Hall of Fame father.
When you’re Kellen Winslow, these are the facts of life. Even if you just turned 24 years old.
“It always bothers me,” he said, “but I have to live with it and I’m healthy.”
Winslow was an active participant Saturday morning as the Browns held their first training camp practice in pads. While his knee was barking, he was right on schedule in his return from microfracture surgery Jan. 30. He attacked the blocking dummy, lined up with the starters and caught a pass down the left side from Charlie Frye.
“It’s my first day back, my legs are underneath me and I’m just getting healthy,” he said, speaking to the media for the first time since the end of the 2006 season.
Winslow was the Browns’ best offensive player last year. He started all 16 games and tied Ozzie Newsome’s franchise record with 89 receptions. He finished with 875 yards and three touchdowns.
It was a triumphant return from a serious motorcycle accident that cost him the 2005 season. He also missed the final 14 games of his rookie season in 2004 after breaking his leg vs. Dallas.
Just as rival fans won’t let Winslow forget the motorcycle accident, either will his knee, which has undergone four surgeries since the stunt ride gone bad in May 2005. He hopes it will one day be pain-free but isn’t counting on it. He was in so much pain last year he had to sit down for postgame interviews, and he often skipped practice.
“From the start of the season it wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but I felt I owed the Cleveland Browns last season,” he said.
Winslow, who skipped the evening practice Saturday and will be closely monitored by the trainers, scoffed when asked if he considered skipping the final games to get to the operating table sooner.
“No. This is the game I love to play,” he said. “This is all I want to do and I love being out there with my team. It’s the greatest place to be.”
Despite the pain, Winslow was productive throughout the season. He had 11 catches for 93 yards in the finale vs. Houston.
“We managed him,” said coach Romeo Crennel, who added he didn’t consider shutting down Winslow early. “We worked together on it and got a good result. Hopefully we’ll have a better result this year.”
Winslow originally planned to get the right knee “cleaned out” in the offseason, but the doctor decided on the more extensive microfracture procedure in which holes are drilled in the bone to generate the growth of new cartilage.
“It wasn’t a tough decision at all. It was a piece of cake,” he said with a laugh. “After what I’ve been through, microfracture, no, that won’t get me.
“It’s a lot stronger than it was last year. It is not what it was before the accident. I can’t plant as hard as I want sometimes, but I work around it.”
Winslow figures to be a focus of new coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense. He played for Chudzinski at the University of Miami and as a rookie with the Browns.
“I think he is the best coach in the NFL,” Winslow said. “He’s on you every day. He’s great to have around.”
“He’s a vertical threat at the tight end position,” Chudzinski said. “He has great hands and can run the deep routes, drags and crossing routes. He gives you a lot of flexibility.”
And gives the quarterback options.
“We all expect Kellen to be Kellen,” Frye said. “He’s a great talent. He’s a great teammate. If you were to pick one guy in the NFL you want on your team, I’d take Kellen Winslow.”
Bad knee or not.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
JASON MILLER / CHRONICLE
Browns tight end Kellen Winslow misses a catch during the first day of training camp in Berea on Friday. Winslow is still recovering from offseason knee surgery.