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  • Children of Eden written by Joey Graceffa
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Browns ready for ’06

Browns fans are cursed.

At least that’s what they believe.

After newly acquired Pro-Bowl center LeCharles Bentley was lost for the season on the first day of training camp due to a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, many fans attributed it to a “Cleveland curse”. It’s easy to see where they get the idea.

The Browns have had a key player miss all or most of the season since returning to the league in 1999. But ask any player or coach, and they’ll tell you football is a physical sport and injuries are inevitable.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why fans who braved the heat to attend training camp Saturday were looking for any good news to hold onto.

They got a small morsel when rookie wide receiver Travis Wilson, the team’s last unsigned draft pick, took the field after a four day holdout.

Unfortunately for Cleveland, native and BGSU alum Steve Sanders the Wilson signing meant the Browns had to cut somebody to get back under the 80 man roster limit.

“One came in, so one had to go. Sanders was the guy to go,” said head coach Romeo Crennel. “I think he has a possibility to catch on with another team. He’s definitely a practice squad kind of guy that you could bring along and develop because he’s a hard working young man, a good young man and he did a good job for us.

“I told him to stay in shape and try to contact some other teams to see if somebody has a need and that if there was an opportunity, I would try to bring him back. Also know that there are no guarantees,” he added.

Sanders signed with the Browns as a rookie free agent after going undrafted in this year’s draft. In his four seasons as a Falcon, he caught 156 passes for 2,324 yards and 24 touchdowns.

After a morning practice that featured plenty of hard hits and a few long touchdown passes that helped take the fans minds off the rising temperature, they got the best news they could have, short of a miraculous Bentley recovery.

Minutes before evening practice was set to begin, it was announced that 2005 first round draft pick Braylon Edwards had been removed from the physically unable to perform list just six months after needing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Sporting a brace, Edwards was visibly happy to be back, joking with fans and doing a victory lap of sorts down the sideline and slapping hands.

“I’ve never really felt like this,” he said. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been, coming off injury.”

Edwards participated in all of the receiver drills and drew large ovations for every catch, but he stayed out of contact drills. He wouldn’t guarantee he’d be in the starting lineup for the season opener Sept. 10 against the New Orleans Saints, but said he can’t see why he wouldn’t be.

“I’m not afraid to cut, plant, run,” Edward’s said. “I would have been shocked if I wouldn’t have been able to run full speed right now. My confidence level is 100 percent. I have confidence in the knee.”

Another Brown returning from a serious knee injury, Kellen Winslow II, also didn’t take many reps in contact drills but showed a little of why the Browns made him the sixth overall pick three years ago by making some leaping grabs over the middle during the position drills. Winslow doesn’t seem to have lost any of the speed that makes him such a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

Quarterback Charlie Frye looked comfortable in his first training camp as a starter and said that even though losing a guy like Bentley hurts, it’s far from the worst case scenario.

“Anytime you lose a guy like that it hurts, but you can’t sit around and mope about it, and LeCharles wouldn’t want us to do that,” he said. “I talked to him the night he got hurt, and I told him, ‘Man, I feel real bad for you, because I seen how hard you worked to get ready for this season,’ and he said, ‘Man, don’t feel bad for me. Just go out and do your thing.’ That’s his attitude. That’s our attitude.”

Frye feels he has a pretty good center in Bentley’s replacement Bob Hallen.

“He knows what’s going on. I think me and him are already getting the snaps together,” he said. “He has a good snap, and it’s just a matter of me and him getting on the same page.”

In fact, the toughest thing for Frye may be burying the hatchet between their alma-maters.

“The craziest thing with him is I never thought I’d be taking a snap from a Kent State guy,” said the Akron alum.

2006 first rounder Kamerion Wimbley took snaps with the first team defense and looked like he was handling the switch to linebacker from end pretty well, despite still lacking some coverage skills.

Although switching positions at such a high level is never going to come without its speed bumps, Wimbley can be reassured that he has veteran Willie McGinest nearby should he have any questions. The 34-year-old McGinest is the prototype for what defenses are looking for in 3-4 outside linebackers these days. He lined up as a linebacker as well as an end for the Patriots after standing out at USC and has racked up 78 career sacks. Even though observers are quick to point out the physical similarities in the two players, Wimbley said it’s much too early to start comparing the two as football players.

“I haven’t accomplished what he’s done on the field, so I don’t think there is any comparison there,” he said. “He’s been to pro-bowls. He’s been to Super Bowls. I’m just a pup in this thing so I think I have a ways to go before I can be compared to Willie McGinest on the field.”

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