December 22, 2014

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Browns suspend Winslow for game: GM Savage says tight end’s comments violate club’s ‘team-first concept’

BEREA — Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow’s rant against the organization, in particular general manager Phil Savage, will cost him $235,294 after the Browns suspended him for a game Tuesday evening for conduct detrimental to the team.
Winslow must forfeit a game check, which is worth a 17th of his $4 million salary. Winslow won’t attend meetings or practice this week, won’t play Sunday at Jacksonville and will rejoin the team Monday.
“His comments and behavior on Sunday evening were unwarranted, inappropriate and unnecessarily disparaging to our organization,” Savage said in a statement. “His statements brought unjustified negative attention to our organization, and violated the team-first concept of our football squad.”
Winslow has the right to appeal, but there was no mention of one in a statement released Tuesday by his publicist.
“I am disappointed that my organization felt the need to suspend me for speaking out regarding my medical situation with staph,” he said.
Following a 14-11 loss to the Redskins on Sunday, Winslow revealed his second staph infection since 2005. He was upset that Savage didn’t call him while he spent three nights in the Cleveland Clinic and told ESPN.com the team was more concerned about the organization than the players when it decided to keep his staph infection private.
“Following discussions with Kellen Winslow and his representation, the Browns agreed to make every effort to maintain the confidentiality of his recent medical condition,” Savage said.
Winslow missed the win over the Giants on Oct. 13, returned to practice Friday and told reporters “just ’cause I play professional football and catch a football doesn’t mean I should let people into my personal business.”
That changed after the loss to the Redskins in which Winslow came off the bench and caught only two passes for 17 yards. Winslow confronted Savage in the hallway outside the locker room, then told reporters he considered asking for a trade before the deadline passed but decided against it.
“I take responsibility for the fact that there might have been a more constructive way to release this, but when I tried to do so I was discouraged from making the issue public,” Winslow said, referring to the infection. “Regardless of how this was released the information would still remain the same. I contracted staph, again.”
The organization is sensitive to the issue, which could make it look bad across the league and to free agents. Winslow’s staph infection is the Browns’ sixth since 2005: him twice, Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius (he’s on the physically unable to perform list) and former Browns Brian Russell and LeCharles Bentley.
“As an organization, we have worked hard to ensure the safety and well-being of our players,” Savage said.
He added that the team brought in experts for an educational presentation to the players in training camp.
“Kellen was in attendance at that meeting,” Savage said. “Since that meeting, not one player has approached me, (coach) Romeo Crennel, or our medical staff with concerns as to how we have dealt with this issue.”
Winslow’s contract runs through the 2010 season at more than $4 million per year, but he began asking for an extension in February. Savage has continually said negotiations are on the backburner.
“This has nothing to do with football and this has nothing to do with my current contract situation. This is a health concern,” Winslow said. “I remain loyal to the Browns organization, my teammates, the fans and the city of Cleveland. I hope to be a Brown for a very long time. I know that the organization and I can move forward and focus on having a successful season.”
Savage was unavailable to reporters Tuesday, as were Crennel and the players, who had their normal off-day. But on Monday, Crennel said he was upset that Winslow took his problem to the media.
“Not only is it a distraction for the organization, but it’s a distraction for Kellen, and it’ll be a distraction for the players in the locker room because they’ll get asked a lot of questions,” Crennel said. “All of those things are taking away from football and their focus and concentration on the next game.”
Linebacker and captain Andra Davis agreed.
“This is something we definitely don’t need right now because we’re 2-4,” he said. “We need to focus on winning games. I think fans are more concerned about us winning and losing than us having staph.
“If we don’t focus on the Jaguars, they’re going to beat our heads in.”
Crennel objected to Winslow’s “piece of meat” description but said he understands why he could be frustrated.
“I try to treat all of them like they are my own kids. I respect them all and they know that,” said Crennel, who called Winslow while he was in the hospital. “The thing that sometimes we don’t understand is the pressure that a young man like that has on him, when he gets injured, when he’s not able to play, when he thinks about his future.
“There’s a lot of things going through his mind and they do have to deal with a lot.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.