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Winslow trying to prove he can return stronger



Published: Wed, August 31, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He knows he made a mistake with the motorcycle, but is trying to make amends.

By JOE SCALZO

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

BEREA -- Kellen Winslow, Jr. limped to his locker on Tuesday, sat at a stool and waited as a media throng gathered around him for his first extensive interview since his infamous motorcycle wreck on May 1.

He looked noticeably thinner -- in addition to his physical therapy, Winslow has been recovering from a staph infection he suffered six weeks ago -- and sounded noticeably more humble, a stark contrast to the chiseled, outspoken tight end the Browns selected sixth overall in the 2004 draft.

"I made a mistake," he said. "I'm just trying to prove to Cleveland and to myself that I can come back strong."

Can he?

"No doubt," he said.

Had surgery in June

Winslow, whose season ended on June 14 when he underwent knee surgery to repair torn ligaments from the accident, has lost 30 pounds since being hospitalized for the infection and has lost millions in salary for violating the "dangerous activities" clause his contract.

"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I'm more wise about my decisions now. You think you're invincible, but I'm just trying to learn from this and make better decisions."

Winslow undergoes physical therapy on his knee for four hours every day. He's also recovering from a small stress fracture in his femur, although he described the injury as minor.

"The main thing is I'm trying to regain the range of motion in my knee," he said. "There's a lot of scar tissue, although that's going away. They do stretch tests and bend my knee until I'm almost crying.

"It's the swelling that hurts the most. It's very painful."

Not sure when he'll return

He's not sure when he'll be back -- he's definitely out this season -- but he's hoping to be back at full strength in February, he said.

"No one's sure," he said. "This injury hasn't really happened except for [Chicago Bulls guard] Jay Williams and his was a lot worse."

Winslow's not sure how he got the infection, although Winslow thinks it might have come from rubbing lotion on his knee.

He hasn't been able to lift for weeks, a big reason he's dropped to 225 pounds from his listed weight of 254.

"It's really not that bad," he said of his situation. "There's bigger stuff going on in the world right now."

Infection is latest setback

The infection was the latest setback for Winslow, whose 2004 season was cut short in the second week when he suffered a right fibula injury. He had nearly recovered from the injury when he crashed his high-powered motorcycle in May, resulting in a nine-day hospital stay.

"I was just interested in bikes," he said. "I'm an edgy guy. I like video games and paintball and I met a friend who had a bike. He taught me how to ride and I got a bike.

"I know a lot of [athletes] who have bikes. You think you're invincible. Unfortunately, the accident happened."

While the injury cost him millions in bonus money, Winslow said he's received a positive response from the fans and the Browns organization. The Browns plan to restructure his contract to allow him a chance to regain some of the money, although his agent and the team are still talking, he said.

Happy with Browns

"They were true to their word," Winslow said of owner Randy Lerner and general manager Phil Savage. "Another organization might have gone another way and might have released me.

"Mr. Lerner and Mr. Savage, thank you basically. I love this organization and this is where I want to be."

Winslow's convinced he can still be the player everyone thought he would be coming out of college.

"I'll be back," he said. "I love this game."

scalzo@vindy.com




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