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Regret may be the fallout from trading Faine to N.O.



Published: Fri, September 8, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



BEREA (AP) -- When it became obvious to Jeff Faine that the Cleveland Browns no longer wanted him, he wanted out.

And considering what has happened since Faine was traded to New Orleans in April, the Browns, who have had a revolving door at center this summer, probably wish they had kept him around.

Faine returns Sunday as the Saints' starting center. For three years that was his job in Cleveland, but he lost it when the Browns signed Pro Bowl free agent LeCharles Bentley in March. Bentley's arrival -- from New Orleans -- coupled with criticism of his play, was the final straw for Faine, a first-round draft pick in 2002.

Pushed for trade

He told Cleveland's front office to get rid of him.

"I pushed for the trade," Faine said. "I didn't like how things were handled with me personally upstairs. The coaching staff, the players, the city, the fans -- I loved all of it. I felt like it was a perfect situation."

The Browns felt differently.

After all, Bentley was a major upgrade at a key position, and quite possibly the top free agent available. So Faine, who also battled injuries, became expendable. On draft day, the Browns traded him and its second-round pick (No. 43 overall) to the Saints for the No. 34 selection which Cleveland used to get linebacker D'Qwell Jackson.

Faine harbors no bitterness toward Browns general manager Phil Savage or coach Romeo Crennel. However, he wishes the club had been more open with him about their plans.

Communication delays

"I don't really want to badmouth anybody or anything," he said. "I didn't like how the moves were made early on in the offseason and it took a long time to communicate with me and my agent. That was what bothered me for the most part. Just to know my situation -- give me a heads up and let me know what time it was, basically. That's when I was ready to get out."

There would be little or no second-guessing of Cleveland's decision to trade Faine if not for a comical set of circumstances that followed his departure.

First, Bentley went down with a season-ending knee injury on Day 2 of training camp. Just over two weeks later, his backup, Bob Hallen retired because of a suspect back problem. The Browns signed free agent Alonzo Ephraim, but he was suspended for four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

If that wasn't enough, the club traded for veteran Ross Tucker and cut starter No. 4 after the final exhibition game. They also acquired Lennie Friedman and Hank Fraley, but as of Thursday, Crennel still didn't know who would start against the Saints.

Not gloating

Faine isn't gloating over the Browns' misfortune.

"I'm aware of their situation. It's their situation and something they're having to deal with," he said. "It's unfortunate what's happened. They made the moves they made. It's unfortunate the way it's played out."

Faine has settled in nicely into his new home in Louisiana. An avid art enthusiast, he's living in New Orleans' warehouse district known for its upscale condominiums, galleries and restaurants. The area was one of the least affected by the floods caused by Hurricane Katrina and is among the city's thriving areas.

Faine, too, has gotten comfortable with his new team.

"Jeff has fit in here incredibly well," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "He's definitely the leader on our offensive line."

Faine's first test with the Saints will be a tough one. His main assignment will be to block Ted Washington, the Browns' massive nose tackle generously listed at 365 pounds.

Because of his familiarity with Crennel, Faine knows there's a good chance he'll have to contend with more than Washington.

What he expects

"Romeo is definitely a coach who likes to test you early, and see what you can handle," he said. "That's the scheme of the 3-4. Every 3-4 team has a good blitz package and that's something we've got to be prepared for."

He's looking forward to returning to northeast Ohio, the place he began his NFL career and where he still has many friends and some business ventures.

"I'm as excited about it as anybody going home," he said. "It was my home for three years."

One thing he won't try to do during his visit is attempt to prove the Browns made a mistake by cutting him out of their future.

"I can't approach it that way," he said. "I've got to prepare for it like I would any game. I've got something to prove to everybody in the NFL. That's the way I look at it every week."




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