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Baxter's major injury adds to Browns' woes



Published: Tue, October 24, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The cornerback tore patellar tendonsin both knees.

BEREA (AP) -- The Cleveland Browns' once-promising season has plunged from bad to worse.

Cornerback Gary Baxter, whose signing last year as a free agent was supposed to plug a huge hole in the club's defense, tore the patellar tendons in both knees during Sunday's 17-7 loss to the Denver Broncos.

The devastating injury for Baxter -- he'll need more than one year of rehab -- is another colossal loss for the Browns (1-5), who entered training camp with renewed hope following a big offseason.

Instead, they are in disarray.

Bad breaks

"It's sad," linebacker Andra Davis said of Baxter. "I feel bad for anybody who gets hurt. I know how bad GB wants to play and the pressure was on him as the top free agent when he came here. He's had some bad breaks."

Baxter's setback is the latest bit of bad luck for the seemingly cursed Browns, who have had more than their share of misery and misfortune since being resurrected as an expansion team in 1999.

The 27-year-old Baxter will have surgery today at the Cleveland Clinic to repair both knees, coach Romeo Crennel said during his Monday news conference. Crennel, who has been coaching for more than 35 years, was asked if he had ever seen an injury like the one suffered by Baxter.

"No," he said. "Not at the same time like that."

In 1993, Chicago Bears wide receiver Wendell Davis tore patella tendons in both knees on the same play. Davis' injury was blamed on the unforgiving Astroturf at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.

However, Baxter was playing on grass and didn't have any contact before crumpling to the field.

Baxter, who missed the final 10 games last season with a torn chest muscle and three games earlier this year with a similar injury, was backpedalling in the second quarter when he planted his feet near the 5-yard line and tried to leap and knock down a pass intended for Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker.

Dropped to ground

Baxter's legs buckled awkwardly and he dropped to the ground in excruciating pain. He immediately grabbed his left knee and it was initially believed that was his only injury. Baxter was lifted onto a cart and driven to the locker room.

Later, the Browns discovered that Baxter had sustained major injuries to both patellars, the tendon that stabilizes the kneecap and attaches the quadriceps muscle to the shin bone.

"Gary has fought hard to get back, but it's an injury bug and one of the things we're up against right now," wide receiver Joe Jurevicius said. "When it rains it pours and when a snowball gets going it gets bigger. It's unfortunate for Gary because he's an integral part of this team."

Crennel has not spoken to Baxter, who signed a six-year, $30 million contract with a $10 million signing bonus before last season.

"Our people were with him last night," Crennel said. "He wants to come back and he was talking about rehabbing and coming back. I think there is a chance he can get back if he has the right attitude about it."

Baxter, who played in 48 consecutive games for Baltimore before signing with Cleveland, is the second Browns player to tear his patellar tendon since July.

Bentley's progress

On the first 11-on-11 play of training camp, center LeCharles Bentley, the club's top free agent signing this past offseason, ruptured his patellar without any contact and was lost for the season.

Crennel was asked about media reports that Bentley was recently hospitalized with a staph infection.

"LeCharles is at home and is rehabbing. We will talk about LeCharles on Friday," Crennel said. Browns general manager Phil Savage has a news conference scheduled for that day.

Bentley's agent, Neil Schwartz, declined comment.

The injury to Baxter only magnified Sunday's repulsive showing against the Broncos. Despite having two weeks to prepare, the Browns' offense managed just 165 total yards -- 34 rushing -- against Denver's defense.

The Browns dropped passes, didn't do a good job protecting quarterback Charlie Frye and failed to move the ball inside Denver's 40-yard line until the fourth quarter.

Crennel has spent the past few weeks lamenting the Browns' inconsistency on both sides of the ball. His team hasn't shown much improvement, but Crennel said he isn't willing to concede the season.

Mental approach

"There is adversity in everyone's life and you have to deal with it when it comes," he said. "If you can handle the adversity today, then you can enjoy the success of tomorrow. I think that's the way you have to approach it.

"Otherwise, you might as well throw your hands up and dive off a cliff."




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