September 23, 2014

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Browns’ Baxter happy to not be on operating table for third straight Oct. 24

BEREA — No skydiving. No bungee jumping. No motorcycle stunts.
Gary Baxter wasn’t taking any chances on his personal hell date.
“I’m going to go home, I’m going to get into bed, I’m going to drive slow,” he said.
Injured reserve isn’t where Gary Baxter wanted to be Wednesday, but it beats the operating table he occupied the previous two
Oct. 24s.
“On this same date, I was in surgery at the Cleveland Clinic,” he said.
Baxter tore a pectoral muscle Oct. 23, 2005, had surgery the next day and missed the rest of the season. That was nothing compared to the pair of torn patellar tendons he suffered vs. Denver on Oct. 22, 2006. He had surgery two days later and immediately predicted an unprecedented comeback.
It hit a roadblock Tuesday when he was placed on IR, ending his season.
“Today is still a positive day,” he said. “Just because I’m on IR doesn’t mean anything stops for me.”
Baxter returned to practice July 30 and opened the season on the active roster. But he was inactive for all six games.
“He knows where he needs to be to help the team and I think he realized he wasn’t quite there,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “He feels he can get there.”
Baxter signed a six-year, $30 million deal in 2005 to play cornerback, but the injury robbed him of the unique talents needed to play the demanding position.
“When I come back, I know I’ll be a safety,” he said. “I’m looking very forward to coming back and being a Hall of Fame safety.”
Baxter said he’s made steady progress since returning to practice. But there’s a difference between being able to run around and do individual drills and being able to turn and sprint with an NFL receiver.
“It’s very disappointing, because I put a lot into this,” he said. “The problem is not my knee, it’s the muscles. I’m getting strength in ’em every day, it’s just not going as fast as I’d like it to.
“I can plant, I can run, I can cut. My power level wasn’t like I wanted it to be to be able to compete during a game.”
Baxter continues to be optimistic about a return despite the premature end to his season.
“I was very close (to playing),” he said. “I have to be smart with this. I needed a little bit more time, and that I didn’t have.
“The positive thing is I know I’ll be healthy before the end of the season.”
Baxter passed his physical at the start of training camp and was activated. When he still wasn’t ready to go following the bye, the Browns decided they needed the roster spot, which they used on special teamer Nick Sorensen. Baxter said he agreed with the decision and called the organization “first class.”
“Gary worked extremely hard to get himself in position that he could get on the field,” Crennel said. “This will give him more time to rehab and get ready to come back next year and help us next year.
“His goal all along was to prove to everybody he could come back. The chances are a lot better. He’s going to work. Next year we’ll give it another shot.”
Baxter promises a different outcome.
“My passion and my love is playing football,” he said. “Right now I’m not able to do that, and it hurts. I’m going to use that for motivation.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.