August 31, 2014

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Browns put Baxter on injured reserve, ending his season

BEREA — Gary Baxter’s improbable comeback is on hold.
The defensive back, who tore both patellar tendons on
Oct. 22, 2006, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his chances of playing this season. The move gives the Browns an open roster spot.
“I have been working hard for the past year to recover from my injuries, but unfortunately at this time, I’m not at a level where I can be a full-time contributor to my team,” Baxter said in a statement. “Because of that, I don’t want to continue to take up a roster spot that can be filled by someone who can help the team win right now.”
No one in league history has returned from a pair of torn patellar tendons, but Baxter appeared close to making history when he was activated from the physically unable to perform list and began practicing July 30 at training camp. But Baxter never fully participated in practice, nor played in a game. He was inactive for the first six regular-season games.
“Gary has put everything he’s got into this comeback,” senior vice president and general manager Phil Savage said in a statement. “He made great strides over the summer, but just hasn’t been able to reach the 100-percent level needed to play in the NFL. We feel he is headed in the right direction and hopeful he will return by next season.”
Baxter (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) was signed to a six-year, $30 million contract in March 2005 to play cornerback. He played five games in 2005 before tearing a pectoral muscle. He played three games in 2006 before suffering the devastating knee injuries against Denver. He was covering a pass deep down the sideline when the knees gave as he was trying to jump.
He spent the next two months in a hospital, and his mother took a leave of absence from her job in Texas to move to Cleveland to take care of him. When he first returned to Browns headquarters he was using a walker, and a return to the field seemed impossible. But Baxter immediately predicted a comeback.
“I’ll make it back. It will be history,” Baxter said.
Baxter had been switched to safety this year, but his knees wouldn’t allow him to do the job. He was limited to scout-team work in practice and didn’t take repetitions with the first- or second-team defense, according to coach Romeo Crennel.
“I’ve made significant progress, much more than anyone thought I ever would,” Baxter said in the statement. “Still, I’m extremely disappointed I didn’t make it on the field this year, and I plan to use this as motivation to get back on the field next year. I’m getting closer to that goal each week.”
The Browns could decide to use the roster spot on a safety. They have just three: starters Sean Jones and Brodney Pool and backup Mike Adams.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.