BEREA — Center LeCharles Bentley stood on the sideline as his teammates stretched, then followed his fellow offensive linemen into a corner of the fieldhouse to watch them go through drills.
Bentley was back at Browns practice Sunday — but only as a spectator. The occasion remained significant, because it’s the first time Bentley’s been spotted in his white No. 57 jersey since being driven off the field in a golf cart last July with a torn patellar tendon.
He said the left knee is approximately 70 percent and he hopes to pass a physical and join the team for practice by the end of the month. He hasn’t given up on his goal of playing this season.
“I think (the chances) are pretty good. I’m just staying the course,” he said. “We’ll have to see how things play out.”
No fans were allowed at practice, which was moved indoors after morning rain. Bentley wore orange shorts like his teammates, but no helmet or pads.
“I would guesstimate high 60s, maybe 70 percent,” Bentley said when asked about the health of his knee. “That 30 percent is a big 30 percent, but it will never be 100 percent. If I can get it into the 90s, that’s good enough.”
Bentley acknowledged the possibility he could begin the season on the physically unable to perform list. That would force him to miss the first six weeks of the season, and then the Browns would have a three-week window in which to activate him.
Bentley signed a six-year,
$36 million contract in March 2006 to join his hometown team, then tore the patellar on the first contact play of training camp. Following surgery to repair the tendon, a staph infection attacked the knee and he needed three more surgeries.
New York Giants team physician Dr. Russell Warren cleared Bentley to resume football activities in July, but the Browns gave Bentley an MRI when he reported for training camp and decided he should continue his personal rehab for another four weeks.
Bentley said he was fine with that decision.
“Once you get into training camp, you start going down,” he said. “I can’t afford to go anywhere but up right now.”
He has been working out away from the team facilities but attending meetings.
“He wants to be a Brown, so we’re glad to have him around,” coach Romeo Crennel said.
“My day is pretty simple,” Bentley said. “I come in, go to meetings, sometimes I get treatment, a little bit, if I need it. I eat with the guys, hang out a little bit, leave, go work out, come back, go to some more meetings.”
Bentley flashed a smile when asked what his knee allows him to do in workouts.
“Leap tall buildings in a single bound,” he said. “No, I do a lot of cutting drills, a lot of offensive line drills, a lot of stuff they were doing out here today.
“I’m just trying to make everything a little bit more crisp, little bit better, little bit stronger, little more explosive. That’s that last 30 percent that has to come. I’m staying the course and hoping that it all kicks in.”
He denied that his relationship with the Browns had become contentious.
“I love everybody,” he said. “There are no hard feelings. I’m not upset with anybody.
“I’m just here to play ball. That’s all I want to do. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, I’ll pack my (stuff) and go home. That’s just the way it is.”
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