CLEVELAND BROWNS UPDATE 

lFANTASY NOTEBOOK: OUTLOOK ON WINSLOW INCREASINGLY GLOOMY...

As Canton Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk noted Saturday, details -- albeit officially unconfirmed details -- of Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.'s condition continue to trickle out through a series of media reports.

The latest -- as Doerschuk understands it: "It has been learned Winslow has a cracked right kneecap, complicating knee issues that have the Browns preparing for a 2005 season without last year's first-round draft pick. It also has been learned that a hairline fracture of the right femur is among injuries Winslow suffered Sunday after ramming his Suzuki sport motorcycle into a high curb."

According to Cleveland-area NewsChannel5, there are also lacerations on his liver and kidney. Akron Beacon Journal staffer Patrick McManamon reported those same injuries this morning, adding that the internal problems are of primary concern to his doctors.

McManamon went on to explain that the liver usually heals itself but requires close monitoring with regular blood tests, which could partly explain why Winslow has remained in the hospital.

But the internal injuries don't seem to be the longer term worry. Those concerns tend to focus on his knee.

In case you missed it, the Warren Tribune Chronicle became the first to report -- on Thursday -- that Winslow has a torn ACL that will require surgery.

And while Tribune Chronicle staffer Mike McLain was the first to come right out and call the injury a torn ACL, ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli, in an article published later Thursday, cited unnamed team officials as believing that is indeed the case.

The Browns have yet to make it official, but other local outlets began independently reporting the knee injury as a torn ACL on Friday.

As Northeast Ohio News Herald reporter Jeff Schudel put it: "In their best imitation of Sergeant Schultz, the Browns continue to say they know nothing about Kellen Winslow's diagnosis, but three separate sources confirm the suspicion Winslow's right anterior cruciate ligament is torn and that he is likely to miss the entire 2005 season."

Cleveland Plain Dealer beat man Tony Grossi, citing a source with secondary knowledge of the situation, advised readers this morning that "doctors may be unable to operate on the knee until his fractured femur heals. That could take two to three months, followed by a month of rehabilitation."

Schudel's "Hogan's Heroes" reference is understandable given the team's reluctance to confirm any of the above reporting, going instead with an official company line provided in an initial statement released last Monday. That statement said Winslow had swelling in his right shoulder and knee but offered no further details. A subsequent statement conceded that the knee remained a concern, although internal wounds were improving.

And other than team spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz confirming on Friday that Winslow remained at Cleveland Clinic for a sixth day, that's pretty much been all we've heard from team headquarters.

Doerschuk added that a Clinic spokesman said Friday that Winslow has exercised a legal option to block the hospital from issuing so much as a one-word condition report, such as "fair.' The spokesman said the hospital was directed to issue all requests for Winslow information to the Browns.

Visitors have included teammates, relatives and members of the team hierarchy, including Randy Lerner, Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage.

As to reports the Browns are bracing themselves for a season without Winslow because of knee issues, Bonsiewicz said, "We're not responding to any speculation.'

Before last Sunday's crash, Savage had said Winslow was close to a full recovery from right leg injuries. A broken fibula and ankle complications cost Winslow all but two games of the 2004 season.

But that assessment isn't necessarily universal.

In a fascinating article published Saturday morning, Plain Dealer staffer Mary Kay Cabot advised readers that since purchasing his high-performance sports bike on April 9, Winslow spent considerable time cruising the streets of his neighborhood.

Much, Cabot added, to the chagrin of neighbors. So much so in fact, that on April 16, one got fed up and called the police.

"He was going up and down the street about 50 miles per hour," said the neighbor, who was not identified. "He was popping wheelies and dogging it. I got tired of it and called the police. There's eight to 10 children right around where he lives."

Lt. Ray Arcuri of Westlake police said a sergeant was sent to the development where Winslow lives, "but by the time we arrived, we were unable to locate anybody doing it."

Another neighbor, Dr. Robert Nahigian, a dentist and president of the development's homeowners association, tried to stop Winslow.

"One day he and someone else went down the street about 15 times doing wheelies," he said. "One of them did a wheelie right in front of my house. After about 15 minutes, I waved him down."

Nahigian told Winslow that he didn't think he should be doing stunts in a residential area. "I also told him that I was concerned about his own safety," Nahigian said. "He told me he wasn't going over the speed limit."

Nahigian questioned why Winslow would perform such dangerous acts when he was still rehabbing from a broken right fibula and ligament damage in his ankle.

"He would walk his dog and he wasn't even walking well before the accident," said Nahigian, casting at least some doubt on the team's recent assertions regarding Winslow's recovery.

Of course, his recovery from that injury appears to be a moot issue at this point -- depending on the veracity of the reports cited above. ... I'll continue to follow this story closely and bring you further developments -- especially official comments or confirmation of the injuries by the team -- as quickly as possible. ...

On a more positive note. ... Pasquarelli reminded readers on Friday that Steve Heiden and Aaron Shea, the Browns' two veteran tight ends, combined for nine touchdown catches in Winslow's absence last season.

That might not sound like a lot until one considers the 31 other franchises averaged 5.7 touchdown grabs from the tight end position. Pasquarelli went on to point out that just five teams -- San Diego (15), New England (11), Indianapolis (11), Kansas City (10) and Washington (10) -- got more touchdown catches from their tight ends than did the Browns. ...

In other motorcycle-related news. ... Associated Press sports writer Alan Robinson reports that Ben Roethlisberger was lectured Friday by Steelers head coach Bill Cowher on the dangers of riding a motorcycle without a helmet -- as Roethlisberger has been spotted doing recently -- but the quarterback isn't ready to get off his $20,000 cycle.

"He talked about being a risk taker and I'm not really a risk taker. I'm pretty conservative and laid back, but the big thing is to just be careful," Roethlisberger said as the Steelers opened their first mini-camp of the year. "I'll just continue to be careful. I told him we don't ever ride alone, we always ride in a group of people, and I think it makes it even more safe."

Asked why he doesn't wear a helmet -- something he wouldn't think about doing on a football field -- Roethlisberger pointed out Pennsylvania's 35-year-old state law requiring helmets to be worn was amended two years ago.

"Obviously Pennsylvania doesn't think people need to (wear a helmet)," he told Robinson. "There's a law you've got to wear it in football."

Many NFL contracts prohibit engaging in dangerous activities, but according to Robinson, Roethlisberger's deal apparently doesn't specifically ban motorcycle riding.

Cowher didn't criticize Roethlisberger's riding, but is visibly uneasy with it.

"I certainly don't condone that," Cowher said. "[Playing pro football] is a very small time in your life and you've got to be very careful -- you can see it documented with Kellen Winslow in Cleveland. There are choices and consequences. ... Not just in riding motorcycles, but where you go and who you associate with.

"You have control over them but once you make your decision, they control you."

Other Fantasy-specific news and notes of interest from around the league. ...

Also in Pittsburgh. ... Jerome Bettis is not hurt and there's been no setback, but he did not practice on the first day of mini-camp.

According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat man Ed Bouchette, the team's 12-year veteran running back, who considered retirement, said taking it easy in mini-camp was preventative medicine.

"Actually, it's making sure we don't have a setback, more than anything. The key is not to have a setback. So, you ask yourself, what do you get out of it as a player or is it more beneficial to sit?

"After 10 years in the same system, I pretty much know. What you see is what you get. It's also an opportunity to let other guys get some reps."

Cowher said Bettis has "a little quad tendinitis, but we expect him to be out there and get through some of the coaching sessions later this month."

Fellow halfback Verron Haynes also did not practice to allow a knee injury that bothered him last season to heal fully. ...

Heath Miller, the Steelers' first-round draft choice, received clearance to participate in mini-camp and went through both practices Friday.

The rookie tight end told reporters last month that he hoped to be ready for this mini-camp, despite undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia in January. Still, the Steelers didn't realistically expect him to be practice-ready until training camp starts July 31.

"I felt really good and it (the groin) feels fine," Miller said. ...

In Arizona. ... Receiver Anquan Boldin, absent during the team's recent mandatory mini-camp, plans to begin working out at the team's facility Monday, said his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Boldin is seeking a new contract and has not participated in any off-season workouts or practices.

According to Arizona Republic staffer Kent Somers, Rosenhaus declined to answer questions but cautioned that Boldin's decision to begin workouts Monday is not related to negotiations with the Cardinals.

"There is no correlation," he said.

Cardinals officials and Rosenhaus have not spoken the past few weeks, but Boldin has drawn some criticism for missing last week's mini-camp and is subject to a $3,000 fine.

Cardinals vice president of football operations Rod Graves told East Valley Tribune beat man Darren Urban on Thursday that the team has offered Boldin, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract, a four-year extension through 2010.

Neither Graves nor Rosenhaus have been willing to go into specifics on the negotiations. But the Cards' offer is believed to have included a signing bonus of $8 million to $10 million.

Boldin's current deal, which paid him a signing bonus of $1.2 million in 2003, is scheduled to pay him $380,000 this season and $460,000 in 2006.

The Cardinals are in the midst of their 14-week voluntary workout period, so Boldin's presence is not required under the collective bargaining agreement. But the star receiver's absence at mini-camp did not make head coach Dennis Green happy, a problem Boldin's return next week should help rectify.

"Everybody is going to have holdouts, that's part of the game," Green said the first day of mini-camp. "Everyone is going to have disputes. That's part of the game, too. When it's all said and done. ... The ones that are going to win this year are the ones who are going to have everyone there working. ..."

In San Francisco. ... Those on hand for his first workout as a pro were clearly impressed with rookie quarterback Alex Smith.

According to San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Kevin Lynch, "Smith handled himself as if he was a 12- year veteran" Friday, adding that the first pick in last month's draft "spit out plays without a glitch and commanded the huddle."

"I was really surprised with how he ran the offense," receiver Brandon Lloyd said.

"Every time he got in the huddle, he handled it correctly," head coach Mike Nolan said. "(From) the huddle presence to getting to the line of scrimmage to calling (the play), I thought he did a good job."

There were lapses.

Smith fumbled twice, once when he turned and bumped into the fullback, and missed some open receivers. However, observers also credited him with a handful of terrific throws, including a tight pass down the middle to tight end Aaron Walker and a long looping sideline throw to Lloyd.

But as Lynch suggested, a favorable first impression is a long way from winning the job.

Semi-incumbent starter Tim Rattay looked polished as he zipped passes. His right foot, which he injured in December, didn't seem to affect him.

"I could feel it was there," said Rattay, who sustained forearm, shoulder, groin and foot injuries last year in his first season as a starter.

"He is very confident in the whole structure of what he has to do as a quarterback," Nolan said after observing Rattay. "That's a critical factor in being a good quarterback in the NFL. He has that air about him of, 'I'm going to run the show.' Whether he's right or wrong is insignificant. You've got to have that attitude first."

Nolan might not limit himself to Smith and Rattay as candidates to start.

"Ken [Dorsey] is in the thick of it," Nolan said. "Ken has done very well up until this point."

Dorsey reportedly also looked solid in Friday's practice and has excelled in the team's offseason quarterback school. Cody Pickett, the promising seventh-round pick from last year, is still developing, but that doesn't mean Nolan is giving up on him.

"There's a good chance we will have four quarterbacks on this team, whether on the active roster or with one on the practice squad," Nolan said. ...

In a related note. ... In an article published Saturday, Pasquarelli reported that team officials and Smith's representatives have "sufficiently bridged the once-alarming gap on their financial differences" and can focus more on contract language.

Also in San Francisco. ... The 49ers have all but abandoned their pursuit of free-agent wide receiver David Boston.

"I haven't closed the book, but it's just barely open," Nolan said.

Meanwhile, Arnaz Battle is lining up at the featured "Z" receiver position. Battle said he's also the first-string punt returner and is still on the punt-coverage team. ...

In Dallas. ... Free-agent running back Anthony Thomas has gone from backing up one Jones brother to another. This after the Cowboys signed the 2001 NFL offensive rookie of the year on Monday to a one-year deal. Terms were not released.

"We've been pursuing Anthony Thomas for a while," said owner Jerry Jones, referring to trade talk before last season.

"He's a veteran back who will complement what we have in Julius [Jones] and Marion [Barber III] because he's a bigger back. He gives us experience because he's a back who's carried the load. He gives us the depth and flexibility that we want at the position."

The 6-2, 225-pound Thomas, who has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark twice in his first four seasons, spent last season as Thomas Jones' backup in Chicago. He rushed for 404 yards on 122 carries and two touchdowns.

Now he'll team with fourth-round pick Barber to back up Thomas' Jones little brother Julius, who rushed for 819 yards in seven starts last season as a rookie.

As Dallas Morning News staffer Jean-Jacques Taylor noted, Parcells has always liked to have a big back for short-yardage and goal-line situations. Thomas will probably fill that role with Dallas. But Thomas can be a featured back, if injuries force Jones out of the lineup.

The "A-Train" rushed for 1,183 yards as a rookie and 1,024 yards in 2003.

The team released ReShard Lee, who rushed for 128 yards on 27 carries last season, to clear a roster spot for Thomas. ...

In New Orleans. ... Joe Horn signed a six-year contract extension with the New Orleans Saints on Friday. The deal, worth about $42 million, includes a $7 million signing bonus.

"I'm looking for a bigger house," said Horn, who had one year left on a three-year, $13 million deal.

Added Saints general manager Mickey Loomis: "Hopefully that will take him through his career and beyond. We're happy to have this behind us."

Horn, a nine-year veteran, has made the Pro Bowl in four of his five seasons with the Saints. He led the Saints in receiving last season with 94 catches for 1,399 yards and 11 touchdowns.

But with the 33-year old wideout showing serious signs of wear in recent seasons, some observers immediately questioned the wisdom of this move. Horn, however, is not among them. "There has been a lot of work and dedication to get this done. I'm happy and thankful," he said.

Horn played through much of last season with a gimpy left knee that frequently was swollen, but said that is no longer a concern.

"I feel very good. I've had minor injuries, like a bone bruise that needed time to heal," Horn said. "There were no injuries that needed major offseason surgery to get me back on the football field. ... I ran sprints the other day and I felt good."

Let's hope so. ...

In Buffalo. ... Rochester Democrat & Chronicle staff writer Leo Roth suggested last Monday that crafting plays for 5-foot-9, 168-pound rookie receiver Roscoe Parrish might be as simple as head coach Mike Mularkey saying, "Roscoe, run."

Buffalo News sports reporter Allen Wilson agreed, advising readers that Parrish was the unquestioned star of last week's mini-camp.

Wilson went on to note that Parrish wowed onlookers by making several highlight-reel catches with his more impressive grab taking place last Friday when the diminutive speedster out-jumped and out-muscled 5-10, 187-pound cornerback Therrian Fontenot along the far sideline.

"That's what we saw on tape when we were watching him at Miami," Mularkey said. "He does have good hands and he had very good hands for this camp. But he's got some quickness that you need as an inside receiver and he's got speed that you need for this game.

"He came in here and I really didn't think the level of competition affected him. Now it's just a matter of getting comfortable with the scheme and when he does that I think you might see even more quickness and speed coming out of him. He's a special type player and I think he has to be."

Not surprisingly, some wonder how Parrish will hold up once the pads go on and the serious hitting begins.

In an article published Thursday, SportsLine.com insider Pete Prisco cited a scout from another team as saying, "[Parrish] would look good running around in shorts. His big thing will be how well he handles contact being such a small guy."

Size notwithstanding, Parrish is expected to have a significant impact on special teams. He also will make a strong bid to be the No. 3 receiver, a position Josh Reed occupied last year.

Parrish's presence lends credence to the belief this is a make-or-break season for Reed.

He knows his spot on the depth chart, and perhaps his spot on the roster, is at stake if he doesn't bounce back from a disappointing 2004 campaign.

"I think I've got to have the best year of my career," Reed said. "Whether it's special teams, blocking or catching passes, I've got to be prepared to do whatever I have to do to help this team."

Reed showed great promise as a slot receiver during his rookie year in 2002. He became a starter the following season, and was forced to play a leading role when Eric Moulds suffered a groin injury that nagged him for most of that year.

According to Wilson, Reed admitted he put a lot of pressure on himself to replace Peerless Price as the starter opposite Eric Moulds, and it showed. Despite catching 58 passes, he dropped a number of balls and seemed to lose confidence.

Things were supposed to be different last season with Reed moving back to slot receiver. But he was unable to build off a strong preseason. A knee injury that sidelined him for four games didn't help his cause.

But Reed continued to display inconsistent hands and a shaken confidence.

Nonetheless, the Bills haven't given up on him. They like his intelligence and ability to line up at every receiver position. And while he lacks the speed of Lee Evans and Parrish, Wilson believes that Reed has good short-area quickness and the toughness to run routes over the middle. He's also the team's best blocker at his position.

"I'm still excited about Josh Reed because I've seen what he can do," said receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. "He was the best receiver coming out of training camp last year. He was making all the catches and making all the plays in the red zone."

Still, by drafting Parrish, the Bills sent a message that they need more production from the receiving corps and that doesn't bode well for Reed. ...

In Detroit. ... San Jose Mercury News columnist John Ryan asked this week, "Has Jeff Garcia heard something from Steve Mariucci?"

Ryan went on to note the veteran signal caller can't seem to decide how he feels about being Joey Harrington's backup.

In March: "I just want to let him know he's the guy, he's the starter. I'm here to basically help make the team stronger and make the position stronger. If it helps him get better and we can mature and grow together and do the necessary things we can do on the field as far as winning football games, then that's what it's all about. I'm not there to create any friction. I'm not there to create any controversy."

Last weekend: "My attitude is to not come in here and be a No. 2. My attitude is to make the position better. If that means it's Joey playing the position and playing better and doing the things we need to do to win, then that's what the competition has brought to the table. But if it's something where I have an opportunity to step on the field -- well, like in times past, I'm going to be prepared and be ready to take advantage of it. ..."

According to FOXSports.com, Harrington had a strong mini-camp, showing a strong, accurate arm. However, the report went on to state: "Probably on the shortest leash of any starter in the NFL, Harrington will need to a strong training camp and open to the 2005 season."

Also in Detroit. ... Charles Rogers will continue to wear a non-contact red jersey, making him off limits, until he gets more confident that his collarbone has healed. Some observers believe Rogers may take a while to become confident playing football again.

The hope, of course, is that his back-to-back broken collarbones don't diminish his aggressiveness. ...

In Chicago. ... Head coach Lovie Smith says Thomas Jones is his starter "for now" after the draft, but those who follow the team closely believe it won't take long for first-round draft pick Cedric Benson, No. 4 overall to take over that job.

As FOXSports.com suggested, "Jones will have a role, perhaps as the third-down back given his strong inside running and ability to catch the ball, but Benson is a workhorse who needs a lot of carries."

It's also worth noting that Benson, known as a strong inside runner, caught the ball better than expected in private workouts with the team. It's not a skill that was demanded of him much in college.

In Denver. ... Quentin Griffin, already recovering from ACL surgery, recently underwent a second arthroscopic procedure to fix a cartilage tear. Head coach Mike Shanahan says he'll be ready in a few weeks, but Griffin will have to come on strong this summer to secure even a limited role -- perhaps that of third-down back -- given the number of players looking for snaps in Denver's backfield. ...

In Seattle. ... Darrell Jackson has been one of two Seahawks players with unexcused absences at voluntary workouts. Itula Mili is the other. Jackson has missed these workouts in the past, so it's not a concern.

And finally this morning. ...

As Prisco reminded readers on Thursday, several rookie receivers taking part in their first mini-camps last weekend suffered mild muscle strains forcing them to miss time.

Jacksonville's Matt Jones (hamstring), Baltimore's Mark Clayton (hamstring) and Cleveland's Braylon Edwards (groin) all missed time with tweaked muscles.

Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said this wasn't unexpected since it's the first time these kids are getting used to the pace of NFL practices. In addition, most of them have been working out on their own -- not with a team, which gives veteran players a leg up in these camps.

Prisco summed up by advising readers, "More teams will convene this week, so don't be surprised to see more of these rookie receivers have problems with their muscles. ..."


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