Saturday, February 17, 2007

Browns' Baxter out for year

Cornerback tears ligament in both knees on Sunday

BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- Cleveland's Gary Baxter tore patellar tendons in both knees while trying to break up a pass in the first half of Sunday's loss to Denver, a devastating injury for the cornerback and another big loss for the Browns.

Baxter will undergo surgery on Tuesday 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, said he has never seen an injury like Baxter's.

Crennel estimated that Baxter would be sidelined for at least one year.

Baxter, who missed 11 games last season with a torn chest muscle and three games earlier this year with a similar injury, was backpedalling when he planted near the 5-yard line and tried to leap to knock down a pass intended for Javon Walker.Baxter's legs buckled and he dropped to the ground. He immediately grabbed his left knee and it was believed that was his only injury. Baxter was lifted onto a cart and driven to the locker room.

Crennel said the 27-year-old Baxter told the team he intends to return from the injuries.

"He wants to come back," Crennel said.

Baxter is the second Browns player to blow his patellar since July. On the first 11-on-11 play of training camp, center LeCharles Bentley, the club's top free agent signing, tore his left patellar tendon and was lost for the season.

Baxter signed a five-year, $30 million contract as a free agent with Cleveland before the 2005 season. He spent four seasons with Baltimore prior to joining the Browns.

Curses! Bentley out for the year

As word spread across Browns country that center LeCharles Bentley had seriously injured his knee on the first 11-on-11 play of training camp, fatalistic Cleveland fans all had the same thought.

Cursed again.

How else to explain another freak injury to a high-profile player?

"No doubt in my mind this team is cursed," said Jack Copley of Brunswick, who attended Friday's practice with his wife, Phyllis.

"If you're picked by the Browns, you're going to get hurt. It's sad. Every time we get a player who we think is going to turn it around here, something bad happens to him."

Sure seems like it.

Since coming back to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999, the Browns have been snake-bitten by injuries, expecially severe ones to first-round draft picks and star players. Some of the bumps, bruises and breaks have included:

Mammoth offensive tackle Orlando Brown gets struck in the eye with a penalty flag thrown by a referee during a 1999 game, an injury that ends his season and causes serious damage.

Quarterback Tim Couch, the No. 1 overall pick in 1999, survives a season-long sacking as a rookie then breaks his hand on the final play of practice in 2000 when he bangs it on the helmet of a rushing linebacker.

Linebacker Jamir Miller makes the Pro Bowl in 2000 -- still the only Browns player to do so since '99 -- but ruptures his Achilles' tendon in the first preseason game of 2001 and is forced to retire.

Offensive tackle Ross Verba signs as a free agent to strengthen a porous line, but tears his biceps muscle in a preseason game and misses the 2003 season.

Tight end Kellen Winslow, the Browns' top draft pick in 2004, breaks his leg in Week 2 at Dallas trying to recover an onsides kick in the final seconds and misses the rest of his rookie season. Five months later, he wrecks his motorcycle doing tricks in a parking lot and misses all of 2005.

Cornerback Gary Baxter, who started 46 straight games for Baltimore, starts five in a row in his first year with Cleveland but tears his pectoral muscle making a tackle in Week 5 and misses the remainder of last season.

Wide receiver Braylon Edwards, finally emerging as a playmaker after a slow start made slower by a staph infection in his elbow last season, scores two touchdowns in the first half against Jacksonville on Dec. 4 before tearing a ligament in his right knee. He undergoes surgery a month later and isn't expected to be back until Oct. 1.

On Thursday, Jim Klempay was on the Internet when a message came across in a chat room for Browns fans that Bentley, the club's biggest free-agent signing of the offseason, had gotten hurt on a routine running play with the players only wearing shoulder pads and helmets.

"I couldn't believe it," said Klempay, of Avon Lake. "I thought somebody was trying to start a fight or something. I wanted to be sick."

The Cleveland native's season-ending injury hurt Browns fans a little deeper.

Bentley, who starred at Ohio State, had come home to play for the Browns, a team he followed passionately even while making two Pro Bowls for the New Orleans Saints. Besides anchoring the line, Bentley's arrival was viewed as a turning point for the Browns, a star player who could help return the team to prominence.

It all looked so good, right up until the moment Bentley was loaded onto a cart with his left knee immobilized and driven off the practice field. He had surgery on Friday and may need one year to recover.

General manager Phil Savage, who called Bentley "the face of our free-agent class," dismissed any notion that the Browns are jinxed.

"If this organization really believes that there is some validity to that, then we are all wasting our time," he said. "I think it is important for our team, coaches, scouts and the people who work here in the front office and with this organization to say that we are still going to get the job done.

"Things happen and there is always give and take. Sometimes you have good news, sometimes you have bad news, but the reality of it is life goes on -- things happen."

And for the Browns, they are usually bad.

Emotions of Browns' move still raw 10 years later

Ten years ago this week, the unthinkable happened in Cleveland, and Ozzie Newsome still can't quite fathom it. In that sprawling football-crazed city of a half million, there was nowhere to hide from the blast of the bombshell news that Cleveland's beloved Browns were moving to Baltimore.

It was an experience that Newsome wouldn't wish on anyone. There was no escaping the story night or day. The specter of the franchise's relocation to Baltimore -- announced by team owner Art Modell on Nov. 6, 1995 -- and the anger it engendered in Cleveland loomed over everything the Browns did in the second half of that season.

The team complex was picketed by jilted and angry fans almost daily, and it became a fortress of sorts for the bewildered Browns employees, who knew little more than the fans did about what came next and how the team had wound up in this position to begin with. Delivery men refused to even drop off soda and snacks and other vending supplies at the team complex anymore, and Newsome found himself hesitant to risk a trip to the grocery store, the gas station or the post office, lest he venture into a community that was nearly blind with rage.

"Moving the Cleveland Browns was just unheard of," said Newsome -- who was the Browns director of pro personnel and is now Baltimore's vice president/general manager.

And what was it like to be the lightning rod head coach of a contending NFL team consigned to franchise purgatory at midseason, soon to lose both home and hope?

"It was terrible,'' said New England's Bill Belichick this week, in his first extensive comments on the tumultuous closing chapter of his five-year Browns coaching tenure. "To walk into that building every day and have everyone in the entire organization wondering what are we going to do?"

Belichick's role in the Browns' sad saga seems like a couple lifetimes ago, but he's still struck by the chaos and uncertainty that reigned in those early days, and just how helpless it felt to be a Cleveland Brown in November 1995.

"There's no situation I've been in, before or since, that even would remotely approach that one for negativity and affecting the overall focus of the team," Belichick said. "Not within 100 miles. It touched every single person in the building, every secretary, every ball boy. I felt badly for everyone involved."

With the Baltimore Ravens now in their 10th season, and the "new" Browns seven years into their expansion experience in Cleveland, time has dulled some of the intensity of the painful events surrounding the franchise's shocking departure for Maryland.

But not for Belichick, who you'd have to say has landed on his feet with the Patriots. The long, strange trip that was the Browns' '95 season remains vivid in his memory, and it will always hold a singular place in his coaching career when it comes to the art of weathering the storm.

The Browns were 4-4 and tied for first place when news of the team's relocation plans began seeping out. They went into a 1-7 death spiral at that point, ending the season 5-11 and finishing a game out of last place in the AFC Central. Belichick was fired over the phone by Modell on Valentine's Day 1996, a conversation that lasted maybe three minutes, and didn't surface as an NFL head coach again until 2000 in New England.

"The first few days were kind of a shock," Belichick said. "Your wheels were spinning. Everybody was kind of dizzy. But after about a week, when there was nothing coming our way in the way of support (from ownership) or even factual information about what was ahead, you felt just like a flag on a pole. You were just blowing with the wind, with no control over which direction you went."

The prevailing winds, of course, were blowing east, southeast, toward Baltimore, a city that knew first-hand about losing its storied NFL franchise virtually overnight. In retrospect, nothing about how the Browns were plucked from Cleveland in those crazy, confusing days makes any sense to Belichick, who is and will always remain something of a football traditionalist at heart.

"The situation in Cleveland, I certainly could have done a better job," Belichick said. "I made my share of mistakes. But that situation was off the charts. To take a franchise like that out of that city, which is 30 miles away from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and with what high school and college football means to people around there, that place is football. For that franchise to move at that point, it was monumentally wrong. It was just a difficult situation for everyone in that building."

"Things got out of control so fast''

Having gone 11-5 and winning a playoff game in '94, Belichick's fourth season in Cleveland, big things were expected of the Browns in '95. Peter King of Sports Illustrated -- and other pundits -- even picked them to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl that season.

The Browns started strong at 3-1, but a three-game losing streak ensued before they fought their way back to .500 at midseason and into a first-place tie with Pittsburgh with an overtime win at Cincinnati in Week 9. But on the Friday before their upcoming home game against the AFC Central rival Oilers, who were one game back at 3-5, all hell broke loose when rumors of Modell's moving plans began to surface.

As it turns out, that bit of chaos was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the uncertainty that would swirl around this venerable franchise in the ensuing months.

"By Friday night before the Houston game it was out, and by Saturday it was confirmed somehow,'' Belichick recalled. "By Saturday morning, the whole city was in a complete panic, as were the players and everybody in the organization. Everybody was calling, saying, 'What's going to happen? What do we do?'

"The only deal was whether the team was going to stay in Cleveland and play the '96 season there as a lame duck, or move to Baltimore right away. No one knew anything, and Art never really provided one ounce of support for all those people working for him, and still wearing the Browns colors.''

Belichick implored Modell to address the team and the organization, offering something in the way of a definitive timetable for the move, and who would be asked to go with the team to Baltimore. But other than a brief, cursory pep talk to the team on the Wednesday following the relocation announcement, Modell said little and clarified even less. Modell at that point left the city for his home in West Palm Beach, Fla., making quick trips to Baltimore as well, and never again that year returned to Cleveland. He barely kept in contact with the team's front office.

"In this business, we all get fired, we all change jobs, and there's a lot of uncertainty,'' said Scott Pioli, the Patriots vice president/player personnel, who was a 30-year old Browns personnel assistant in '95. "But hearing that the entire franchise was moving, trying to wrap your hands around the concept was difficult.

"Things got so out of control so fast. All hours of the day there were fans picketing outside our building. There were death threats being made to people, even beyond Art Modell. There were cop cars and constant surveillance around the building. It was just surreal. So far beyond the norm that no one knew how to deal with it.''

The public's antipathy for all things Browns-related after the news broke created a bunker-like mentality within the team complex in suburban Berea. Local sponsors withdrew their support almost unilaterally, and the atmosphere within the community grew so charged that the team couldn't even get its junk food delivered.

Recalls Michael Lombardi, who was then the Browns director of player personnel and is now the Oakland Raiders' top personnel executive: "We couldn't even get the Eagle Snack guy or the Coke guy to deliver any more. Everybody was so anti-Cleveland Browns.

"That first week, Nov. 10 was the anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (on Lake Superior), and the joke was, that's what this is like. That (Gordon Lightfoot) song, when he sings, 'Fellas, it's too rough to feed you. Fellas, it's been good to know you.' We all felt like a band of brothers, actually. That we were able to survive it at all. We all have a bond among us after going through that together. Because we all knew that some of us were going to Baltimore, and some of us weren't. We knew some of us were going to take the blame for losing.''

Adds Belichick: "It was a total withdraw by the city, and the sponsors and all that. And under the circumstances, you couldn't really blame them. They weren't going to support us at that point. We were leaving them.''

Modell: "I have no second thoughts''

Reached this week at home in Maryland, Modell recalled his discomfort at taking the podium in Baltimore that fateful Monday to announce the move, three days after the first news reports surfaced.

"It didn't sit well with me, having to get up there and do that that day,'' said Modell, who gave up his majority ownership in the Baltimore Ravens in early '04, as part of his sale of the team to Steve Bisciotti. "I didn't like it. I didn't want it. But if I didn't move that damn team, I would have been in bankruptcy in 60 days.

"I was uncomfortable, I knew I was going to be vilified. But I was doing it out of pure economic need. I have no second thoughts, and nobody around me has second thoughts. The Browns survived as a football team. Their history and colors survived and they got a new stadium out of it. I knew I would take heat and I was prepared to take it. It was unpleasant. but I knew what I was doing was the right thing, and I still believe I did the right thing.''

Modell's critics have long contended that he was only in such dire economic straits because of years of questionable decision-making when it came to both his and the team's finances. Losing money as an NFL owner in the age of revenue-sharing, the critics contend, is a difficult task.
Asked if had any regrets about the Browns' '95 season being the casualty of his franchise re-location, Modell scoffed.

"They knew what was going on,'' he said of the team's front office and coaching staff. "They had a job to do and they didn't get it done. I can't buy into that. I had to do it sooner than later. I knew the squeeze was on. I would have loved to sell the team and keep it there, but who was I going to sell it to in that situation, with that stadium? Who was going to step up and buy the team under those conditions?''

(Modell's desire to replace the 64-year-old Cleveland Stadium put him at odds with city lawmakers, who reportedly balked at providing the Browns' owner public funds to help build the team a new home.)

Modell said the ensuing decade since his controversial departure from Cleveland has flown by. "Ten years go by in a hurry when you're having fun,'' he quipped. "This is the kind of story where it depends on who gets to tell the history, and what side it's coming from. I will say this, I won a Super Bowl (in Baltimore) within (five) years. That should tell you something.''
Modell even saved one last zinger for Sports Illustrated and its infamous Nov. '95 cover featuring a caricature of him sucker-punching Browns fans.

"I'll never get over that,'' he said. "Never. That was brutal. A brutal cover. Unkind and untrue. It wasn't a case of making a buck, it was a case of survival. They're on my big list.''

The '95 Browns were a breeding ground

Check out the landscape of the NFL today and it speaks volumes to see how many members of the '95 Browns -- a doomed team if there ever was one -- continue to dot the league map (see chart below). The coaches and front office staff of that Browns team comprise virtually a Who's Who of the NFL a decade later. Even a handful of players, such as Vinny Testaverde, Keenan McCardell, Matt Stover and Orlando Brown, remain in uniform.

Belichick, of course, has compiled Hall of Fame coaching credentials by winning three of the past four Super Bowls in New England. Newsome, Cleveland's director of pro personnel, won a Super Bowl himself five years ago in Baltimore, where he remains the team's general manager and vice president. Browns director of player personnel Michael Lombardi is now the Oakland Raiders' top personnel executive, and Cleveland's front office also included future general managers or personnel executives in Phil Savage (Cleveland), Scott Pioli (New England), Mike Tannebaum (New York Jets), and George Kokinis (Baltimore).

If possible, Cleveland's coaching and scouting staff in '95 was perhaps even more star-laden, containing six current NFL coordinators -- Chuck Bresnahan (Cincinnati), Eric Mangini (New England), Jim Bates (Green Bay), Jim Schwartz (Tennessee), Mike Sheppard (New Orleans), Rick Venturi (New Orleans) -- and two future collegiate head coaches in Kirk Ferentz (Iowa) and Pat Hill (Fresno State). Browns special teams coach Scott O'Brien is now the coordinator of football operations/assistant to the head coach in Miami, under Nick Saban -- who, of course, was Belichick's defensive coordinator in Cleveland from 1991-94.

"I think we all knew we had something good together,'' Lombardi said. "The program that Bill had built in Cleveland was an outstanding program, and it was going to be a success. We all knew it. Everybody knew it coming to work every day. I think there's just one person who didn't know it.''

Always loath to publicly sing his own praises, Belichick nonetheless acknowledges the satisfaction of seeing the Browns' '95 front office and coaching staff ascend to positions of power throughout the league.

"Obviously I'm really proud of that and proud of what we accomplished there,'' he said. "We had a damn good football team in Cleveland in '94. I told Art several times, you've got a good staff here, coaching and scouting. That's not the problem. I feel like the point has been proven 10 years later.''

Newsome, the Hall of Fame Browns tight end who was one of many Cleveland officials to make the move with Modell to Baltimore, lauds Belichick for assembling such a talented array of football men.

"We were all there together during that time,'' Newsome said. "The majority of us came in there young and eager to learn. Bill exposed us and challenged our ability to learn and understand the game of football, and I think we all did.''

An ending befitting the Browns' saga

After their season already had swirled down the drain with six consecutive losses, the Browns beat Cincinnati 26-10 in their penultimate game, the last one ever played in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. The outcome, however, is not the memory that lingers.

"I remember the final home game, it was surreal day,'' Pioli said. "The city's anger had peaked that day. And during the fourth quarter, they actually had to stop the game every time a team was driving toward the one end zone nearest the 'Dawg Pound', where the stands were so close to the field. The refs were making the two teams turn around once they got close to the Pound, because fans were heaving bleacher seats from the Pound and from the upper deck.

"I remember hearing this cracking noise, this sound, this unnatural sound for a football game. And it was people in the upper deck actually ripping up the wood and the metal from these seats and throwing them out on the field. You'd hear a cheer every time another one would go over the rail.''

Belichick said he has watched the game film from that day, and it's jarring to see the teams changing directions so often, in essence playing on a 50-yard field.

"We changed directions four times in that game,'' he said. "To stay away from the Pound. And I'll never forget seeing those seats, and they were like four seats together, and must have weighed 70 or 80 pounds, watching as they would get pitched over the upper deck. There were guys who actually brought their tools to the game and were literally taking the stadium apart. It was bizarre.''

Even Testaverde, the Browns starting quarterback for most of that season, found time to grab a few souvenirs of that lost year in Cleveland.

"The best part about it was when the Modells left town, David, Art's son, also left town prior to the whole team moving,'' Testaverde said this week. "Up in David's office, he used to keep all these cigars -- he was a cigar aficionado. I'd go up there every couple days and take a few. At the end of the year, I had me a couple cases of cigars. He wasn't around to stop me.''

For Belichick and the rest of the Browns, the ugliness of that last home game summarized their entire lame-duck experience in Cleveland. The season's final two months was a slow, steady depressing descent.

"Art had no concept of how bad it was there during those two months, because he was gone,'' Belichick said. "I didn't feel bad for myself, because I knew I'd get another job somewhere else in the league. But it was hard for my family. And it was for all those people in the organization, the people who had worked there for years and who bled Cleveland Browns for him. They didn't deserve being flat out dumped.''

1995 Cleveland Browns Then and Now

Browns Title
Current Job

Bill Belichick
Head coach
Patriots head coach

Ozzie Newsome
Director Pro Personnel
Ravens V.P./General Manager

Michael Lombardi
Director Player Personnel
Raiders Personnel Exec.

Scott Pioli
Personnel assistant
Patriots V.P., Player Personnel

Phil Savage
National scout
Browns Sr. V.P./G.M.

Mike Tannebaum
Player Personnel asst.
Jets Sr. V.P./Asst. G.M.

George Kokinis
Pro Personnel assistant
Ravens Director Pro Personnel

Eric Mangini
Coaches assistant
Patriots Defensive Coordinator

Jim Schwartz
College/Pro scout
Titans Defensive Coordinator

Jim Bates
Secondary coach
Packers Defensive Coordinator

Chuck Bresnahan
Linebackers coach
Bengals Defensive Coordinator

Rick Venturi
Defensive Coordinator
Saints Defensive Coordinator

Mike Sheppard
Receivers coach
Saints Offensive Coordinator

Scott O'Brien
Special teams coach
Dolphins Cord. Football Operations

Kirk Ferentz
Offensive line coach
University of Iowa head coach

Pat Hill
Tight ends
Fresno State head coach

Pepper Johnson
Patriots Defensive Line coach

V. Testaverde
Jets quarterback

Matt Stover
Ravens kicker

Keenan McCardell
Chargers receiver

Orlando Brown
Offensive tackle
Ravens tackle

Tom Tupa
Redskins punter (on IR)

Edwards suffers torn ACL

Edwards suffers torn ACL
By Zac Jackson,
Staff Writer
December 5, 2005

Braylon Edwards tore the ACL in his right knee Sunday and will miss the remainder of the season.

Browns coach Romeo Crennel said Edwards will have surgery to repair the tear when the swelling goes down. A full recovery is expected.

Edwards suffered the injury while battling Rashean Mathis for a deep ball in the fourth quarter of the Browns' 20-14 loss to the Jaguars. He landed awkwardly on the knee and was attended to on the field for several minutes.

"He was making an effort to make another big play for the team," Crennel said.

Edwards had a banner day before the injury, recording 5 receptions for 86 yards and scoring his second and third career touchdowns on passes of 34 and 17 yards from Charlie Frye in the first half.

"We anticipate he will be back with us next year and continue to provide those plays he did yesterday," Crennel said.

The third overall pick in last year's NFL Draft, Edwards finishes his rookie season with 32 receptions for 512 yards and 3 touchdowns in 10 games. He missed two games in October due to an arm infection.

Latest Chapter of Browns Misfortune 5/2/05

Winslow hurt in motorcycle accident

WESTLAKE, Ohio (AP) -- Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was injured in a motorcycle accident, but the team said his injuries aren't life-threatening.

The former Miami star was riding in a community college parking lot Sunday when he hit a curb at about 35 mph and was thrown from the motorcycle, police Lt. Ray Arcuri said.

He was taken by ambulance to Fairview Hospital and was scheduled to be transferred to the Cleveland Clinic on Monday where the team's medical staff would treat him, Browns spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz said.

"He went over the handlebars and was real evasive about what the injuries were," Arcuri said.

Winslow was wearing a helmet, but it wasn't strapped on and flew off his head, Arcuri said. He and four other men were riding motorcycles in the parking lot, not far from Winslow's home.

The first-round draft pick missed nearly all of his rookie year after breaking his leg in the second game of the season. He has had two operations on the leg.

Cracked kneecap, femur among Winslow injuriesSaturday, May 7, 2005 By Steve Doerschuk Repository sports writer

BEREA — Details of tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.’s condition continue to seep out.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.

The club is not commenting on these injuries, standing by its initial statement that Winslow initially had swelling in his right shoulder and knee, and by a subsequent statement that said the knee remained a concern, although internal wounds were improving.

Winslow suffered substantial bruises to his chest, a source said, adding that reports Winslow suffered broken ribs were untrue.

Team spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz confirmed Friday that Winslow remained at Cleveland Clinic for a sixth day.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 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.

Winslow isn’t the first high-profile athlete whose course was changed by a motorcycle wreck.Duke product Jason Williams, the No. 2 pick of the 2002 NBA draft, hasn’t played since crashing before the 2003-04 season.

In an interview on ESPN Radio, Williams said he feels for Winslow."When I crashed my bike ... the instant thought wasn’t that I was going to die or I wasn’t going to stay alive, it was that I threw it all away,’’ Williams said. "It wasn't until I got to the hospital when I saw the 15 to 20 doctors waiting for me in the emergency room where it actually clicked to me that I wanted to stay alive.’’

Williams said motorcycles are part of pro athletes’ culture."Even the best of the best guys ride motorcycles,’’ he said. "You see guys riding them to games, you see guys riding them around. You can tell guys that it’s dangerous, but when it really comes down to it, these guys are grown men.’’

Linebacker Brant Boyer, a Browns team leader in recent years, is a motorcycle enthusiast who has been seen pulling in and out of the Browns’ parking lot on a bike many times.

Of course, that’s different than Winslow zipping around a parking lot shortly before he crashed on Sunday.You can reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail:

Winslow's Injuries Turn Out To Be Truly SeriousOfficials Re-Create Accident

POSTED: 5:13 pm EDT May 6, 2005

CLEVELAND -- Browns tight end Kellen Winslow's injuries are much more serious than first thought, NewsChannel5 reported.

5 On Your Side Health Team Anchor Lee Jordan reported sources close to the Winslow story said the Sunday motorcycle accident left Winslow with a broken tibia and femur, along with a fracture to the large bone in his thigh. His ACL was damaged, possibly torn and there are lacerations on his liver and kidney.

NewsChannel5's source continues to stand by the information.

One media outlet is even suggesting Winslow's football career is over, WEWS reported.

Winslow previously had two surgeries on the right leg the he broke last fall.

Meanwhile, officials in Westlake re-created Winslow's accident by duplicating the motorcycle's skid marks in the parking lot of Cuyahoga Community College. The test, which involved using a special device, was designed to help gauge Winslow's speed when he crashed his motorcycle Sunday night.

WEWS reported police didn't have a bike similar to Winslow's, so a Channel 19 reporter, with nearly the same bike and tires as Winslow's volunteered to do the skid test. Police gave him the green light.

Westlake police repeatedly cautioned the rider to go slowly, so they could estimate Winslow's speed.

He ended up falling off the bike when attempting to stop. Officials said the reconstruction closely resembled what happened to Winslow.

"As everybody saw, you can see how easy it is to lose control on a motorcycle when you're braking," said Lt. Bill Eschenfelder of the Westlake Police Department.

Saturday, May 07, 2005
Mary Kay Cabot
Plain Dealer Reporter

One afternoon in March, Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was playing paint ball with friends in the back yard of his Westlake home when he heard a rumbling in the parking lot behind his house.

He looked and saw someone performing wheelies and other stunts on a motorcycle.

He went to the lot and introduced himself to the rider, Jason Campana.

Campana and Winslow exchanged phone numbers. Before long, Campana was hanging out at Winslow's house talking about motorcycles, according to interviews with Westlake police and sources close to Winslow.

Winslow was so pumped about what Campana could do on his Suzuki GSX-R600 that he decided to buy a bike. Campana, 19, hooked him up with his buddies at State 8 Cycles in Cuyahoga Falls.Because Winslow is 6-4, 250 pounds, Campana thought he would be better suited to the Suzuki GSR-R750 than the 600. It's more powerful than Campana's bike, but Campana and the salesman at State 8 both thought the 750 was the right choice.

Winslow, a novice, bought the shiny, red bike about April 9 and received it a few days later. Soon, Campana was teaching him how to ride, how to shift gears and operate the clutch. Campana, who has been riding motorbikes since he was about 8, advised Winslow to take a safety course at Polaris Career Center, but the tight end did not follow the advice, he said.

Before long, Winslow and Campana were riding around Winslow's Westlake neighborhood, much to the chagrin of neighbors.

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 asked not to be 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 Cornerstone 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 Cornerstone 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.

When he wasn't practicing, Winslow would often pop in a tape of the Starboyz, a stunt riding team whose three main riders are from Akron. The Starboyz travel all over, performing stunts.

A day or two before Winslow's motorcycle accident, he burned out the clutches on his bike attempting a burnout, a trick that involves spinning the back wheels, said Scott Caraboolad, president and founder of the Starboyz. Caraboolad said one of his Starboyz associates works at State 8 and sold Winslow the new clutches. Then, Caraboolad said, the State 8 guys fixed his bike for him."

The guys at State 8 were trying to get Kellen to come take private lessons with us," said Caraboolad. "We wish we would've gotten the chance to teach him how to do things the right way."

On May 1, Winslow, Campana and a few friends rode their bikes to Canton to watch the Starboyz perform live at Hardings Park Cycle.

After the show, Winslow and friends went inside to shop for motorcycle paraphernalia. Working security was Eric Stanbro, an off-duty Canton-area policeman who always works the show - even though he has a general disdain for the Starboyz, who wear "Cops Lie" T-shirts and other anti-police messages."

Some guy said, 'Grab a paper and pen, Kellen Winslow's in here,' " said Stanbro. "I went over and looked and it was him. He spent about an hour in there shopping and looking at things. He signed about half a dozen autographs and took some pictures with fans."

When Winslow and friends left, they turned onto Ohio 62 and some popped wheelies. Stanbro said Winslow, who was last, was one of them."He popped up his front wheel and just gunned it," said Stanbro. "He was going about 40-50 mph and held it about 100 feet. He was just flying. A bunch of people were watching him and I think he was showing off."

Stanbro said he's positive it was Winslow because he was wearing a bright red Budweiser jacket, the same one that appeared later that night on the security video at Corporate College in Westlake."

All of the other guys were wearing leather and looked like much more experienced riders," said Stanbro.

But one of the other riders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it's doubtful that the inexperienced Winslow could perform such a difficult wheelie.

"He was in back of us, but I don't think Kellen is able to do that yet," he said. "He was taking it slow and being responsible on the bike. He enjoyed the ride down there and we were watching out for him."

When the riders got home, they split up for a while, but agreed to meet again later that evening at Corporate College because one of the riders' friends wanted a picture with Winslow. Winslow and Campana brought their bikes. They took the picture, and then Campana and Winslow started riding around the lot.

According to interviews, they were practicing stunts and tricks while the other two watched. Then came the accident. Campana was off in one corner of the parking lot and Winslow was in the other. The two others were half-watching, half-talking to each other.

Suddenly, Campana wheeled around only to see Winslow fly over his handlebars and land in the shrubbery. The three men rushed to Winslow's side and found him unconscious. According to sources, the friends didn't know if he was dead or alive. One of them grabbed his hand and began saying, "Kellen, Kellen, Kellen."

Winslow regained consciousness, but was in extreme pain and they didn't move him. They called 911. Winslow was transported by ambulance to Fairview Hospital and then taken the next day to the Cleveland Clinic, where he remains with potentially serious injuries to his right knee and shoulder, along with internal injuries.

The Browns said Friday they had no further update on Winslow's condition. There is concern within the organization that Winslow has multiple injuries to his right knee and leg. There is also concern Winslow injured his kneecap in addition to suffering ligament damage and a possible hairline fracture of the right femur.

The eyewitnesses gave their accounts to police but the versions conflicted. One thought Winslow was attempting a reverse wheelie or "endo" and the other thought he was trying something else. Campana told police he had no idea what Winslow was doing and wishes he could ask him. He told police it could've been a freak accident.

Caraboolad, the Starboyz president, said the accident could have been prevented.

"I was so busy performing that day that I didn't have a chance to talk to Kellen," he said. "If I had, I could've given him some advice and maybe talked him into attending one of our wheelie schools to learn the right way."

Caraboolad said one of the first things he would've told Winslow is to not practice stunts in a parking lot. "It's totally the wrong place," he said. "Even professional stunt riders have a hard time in parking lots. You need a race track a half-mile long to accelerate.

"The Starboyz, who used to "raise hell on the streets of Akron and Canton" and have been arrested for performing on roadways, now have an operating agreement with Thompson Raceway Park outside Painesville. It's where they teach their increasingly popular wheelie classes."

The sport is so dangerous that we decided to start a wheelie school so that guys wouldn't kill themselves," he said. "I've seen 30 or 40 people wreck right in front of me."

He said the Starboyz are scheduled to teach Michael Jordan and his race team how to do stunts this summer."We wish we could've done the same for Kellen before it was too late," he said.

"He's very lucky to be alive."

The Fumble

The Browns of the Bernie Kosar era weren’t just good. They were also resilient.

Very resilient. They were like those inflatable, life-size clown punching dummies kids used to have, where you’d hit it with all your might and knock it to the floor, only to have it pop right back up unscathed.

The Browns had a 21-3 halftime lead at Miami in the 1985 AFC divisional playoffs yet found a way to lose 24-21.

They came back in 1986 with more resolve – and a diverse attack with the offseason hiring of Lindy Infante as offensive coordinator. But they received a dagger to the heart again when they let Denver drive 98 yards to score the tying touchdown with 37 seconds left – at Cleveland, no less - in the conference title game. The Broncos ended up winning 23-20 in overtime.

Devastated but not dissuaded from their determination to kick in the door and finally make it to the Super Bowl, the Browns regrouped and returned once more to the AFC Championship Game in 1987. There they would meet the Broncos again, this time at Denver. Not even an in-season players’ strike could knock them off course.

Certainly, the football gods would be on the Browns’ side this time. After all, the odds were with them. Following their two crushing, gut-wrenching defeats in 1985 and ’86 - plus an equally painful 14-12 loss to Oakland in the 1980 divisional playoffs when Brian Sipe’s pass was picked off in the end zone in the closing seconds - it seemed the Browns had already run the gamut of excruciating ways to drop games.

Maybe, but the Browns were dealt one more kick to the stomach on Jan. 17, 1988 at Mile High Stadium, losing 38-33 in what will forever be known as "The Fumble" game.

Browns running back Earnest Byner appeared headed into the end zone for the tying touchdown with a minute left, only to have the ball stripped at the Denver 3 by little-known defensive back Jeremiah Castille. He recovered, essentially ending the Browns’ valiant comeback attempt – and adding another memorable chapter, albeit a negative, sobering one, to the team’s history.

"That game pops into my head like it was yesterday," Dan Fike, the team’s starting right guard during the Kosar era, said the other day. "The double-overtime game against the Jets, The Drive game and The Fumble game, are ones that you can never forget. They are fully ingrained into your memory, like your wedding day.

"And I’m sure if you asked the Broncos, The Drive and The Fumble are key games for them, too – defining moments. Only for them, it was a different kind of defining moment."

The Broncos celebrated – and probably still celebrate – those games. Those were the contests that really launched the career of Broncos quarterback John Elway and got him started toward the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Along with that, the Denver organization jumped into the Super Bowl limelight.

For the Browns, though, there was nothing to celebrate from those games – nothing to feel good about. Then or now.

"We were crushed when we lost those games to Denver, and that’s a feeling that still lingers with me to this day," Fike said. "Emotionally, it took a month for me to overcome The Fumble game. And like I said, I still think about that game. I still get asked about it by people.

"For me, The Fumble game was worse than The Drive game, maybe because I was actually out on the field when The Fumble happened. In The Drive game, we had just scored to go ahead so we were sitting on the bench talking for a while. It wasn’t until Denver got down there close to scoring that we got up to watch what was going on."

Whereas The Drive game was close throughout, The Fumble contest almost got out of hand right away. Denver had a 14-0 first-quarter lead and was up by even more – a whopping 18 points, at 21-3 – at halftime. An offense that had exploded the week before in a 38-21 victory over Indianapolis in the divisional round, and had scored 30 or more points seven times on the year, could muster only a 24-yard Matt Bahr field goal.

"We just did not click very well in the first half," Fike said.

The second half was different, though.

"We opened up the offense after halftime," Fike said. "Bernie was winging the ball all over the place, and we were running the ball on them."

Slowly but surely, the Browns caught up. They scored three TDs in the third quarter - Kosar hitting wide receiver Reggie Langhorne for 18 yards and Byner for 32 yards, followed by Byner’s four-yard run. Those scores cut the deficit to 31-24.

The Browns finally tied it at 31 four minutes into the fourth quarter when Kosar threw a four-yard TD pass to wide receiver Webster Slaughter. But with four minutes remaining, the Broncos answered with a score of their own on Elway’s 20-yard pass to running back Sammy Winder to go ahead, 38-31.

That set the stage for what the Browns hoped would be their Drive, their comeback to score a tying touchdown and force overtime, where they would eventually outlast the Broncos and win.
Taking over at their own 25 with 3:53 left, the Browns quickly picked up ground in chunks. Byner ran 16 yards up the middle on the first play. Two plays later, Kosar passed 14 yards to wide receiver Brian Brennan to the Denver 43. He went to Brennan again on the next play for 19 yards.

Byner tried the left side on a six-yard run two plays later, then, two plays after that, Broncos inside linebacker Karl Mecklenburg was penalized five yards for offsides to give the Browns a first down at the Denver 8 with 1:12 remaining. The Browns had moved 67 yards in just six plays covering 2:41.

Then came the next play and The Fumble.

"It was a trap play,’ Fike recalled. "I trapped (right end) Rulon Jones and drove him to the outside, and Earnest cut back inside."

The hole was huge. Actually, the blocking on the entire drive – on both running and passing plays – was flawless.

Byner blew through the opening as he headed toward the end zone for what looked to be an easy touchdown. The only Bronco in his way was Castille.

Castille wandered toward the middle of the field just in front of the goal line. There he dislodged the ball from Byner’s hands and fell on it.

"You hated to see that happen from a team standpoint, and you really hated to see it happen to Earnest. It just didn’t seem fair," Fike said of Byner, who ended the day as the Browns’ top rusher with 67 yards in 15 carries, and also the top receiver for either club with seven catches for 120 yards. "He was the one who got us back into the game in the second half with his running and his pass receptions.

"Earnest is a good person and a good friend, and he was a good teammate. No way have I ever held any ill feeling toward him for what happened.

"You hear all the stories about Cleveland being jinxed, and that one play is a prime example of that. I’m from the South, and when you had some bad luck, you were snakebit. So I guess we were snakebit."

In 1985, ’86 and ’87. But the Browns kept overcoming that to climb back into the title hunt. They were Rocky Balboa, getting beaten up but never beaten down to the point of giving up.
"I think we were able to withstand the bad things that happened to us because we were a tightly-knit team," Fike said. "You knew everybody’s wife and kids. We spent a lot of the time together off the field.

"There was a camaraderie among the players. When you looked and saw your teammate across from you, you knew that he was with you and would support you. Sure, we had great talent, but we also had a great sense and a great feeling for one another."

What the Browns didn’t have, however, was a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

"I don’t know which one of our teams were better - the one in ’86 or the one in ’87- but we thought we were better than Denver was both years," Fike said . "I mean, the Broncos were obviously good to have gotten that far, but we just thought we were better.

"We also thought we would have played better in those two Super Bowls than they did (losing 39-20 to the New York Giants following the 1986 season and then 42-10 to the Washington Redskins the next year)."

Speculation. That’s all the Browns have now because they were never able to make their dream come true.

Almost, but not quite.

"To get used to the high altitude in Denver, we went out to Albuquerque the week before The Fumble game to train," Fike said. "There are Browns fans everywhere you go, and they were out there, too.

"One day, a Browns fan came up to me and told me he had a dream that I recovered a key fumble at the end of the game. So after I blocked Rulon Jones out of the play, I turned around to see the ball pop out of Earnest’s hands. In the next split-second as I dove for the ball, that fan’s story about the dream came back to me.

"It’s just one of those crazy things. I was down there scrambling for the ball, still thinking about that dream. I ended up being down at the bottom of this big pile. I missed recovering the ball by about 12 inches."

Yes, history is sometimes that close to being drastically altered. Nearly two decades later, the Super Bowl-hungry Browns are still trying to make up that small, but at the same time oh-so-large, distance.

No one on the Browns thought it would turn out that way – even after the 1987 title game loss.
"I think it’s important to remain consistent in this league and not give up hope," Kosar is quoted as saying in the Browns 1988 media guide. "If you maintain your character and poise, it’s eventually going to work out."

The Browns hope Kosar is proven right at some point soon.

The Drive still ‘Dawgs' Browns

Hanford Dixon talked on his cell phone as he drove around the Cleveland area on business the other day.

As the conversation continued, it seemed at some point soon that the former Browns Pro Bowl cornerback, a member of the team’s prestigious Browns Legends Club, would clip a mail box, plow into the rear end of someone stopped at a traffic light or simply drive off the road and into a ditch.

For the subject being discussed was that old bugaboo, the 1986 AFC Championship Game, or The Drive, as it’s more commonly known today.

"I don’t appreciate you bringing it up," Dixon joked. "And the fact it’s on TV all the time around this time of year doesn’t make it any easier, either."

Yes, The Drive will get more a lot of face time these next several weeks.

"I don’t watch it. I can’t watch it," Dixon said of the Browns’ 23-20 loss in overtime.

It’s just too painful.

"It was just a blow," he said. "It took a while to get over. You keep replaying the game in your mind, wondering, ‘What if?’ When I think about it even now, I get so upset that I just want to go kick something."

Red Right 88, the play described in Part 1 of this series, struck out of the blue, like a lightning bolt on an otherwise clear day. But The Drive was just the opposite. There was nothing sudden about it in any way, shape or form. It was a slow, miserable experience – like a Chinese water torture. Each drop – each play of that drive – hurts a little more when it’s viewed now, 18 years later.

The old saying that time heals all wounds doesn’t apply here. It only seems to fester, and when The Drive is shown again and again and again, like a nightmare that just won’t quit, it’s like pouring salt into the wounds.

The whole container of salt. Maybe even the entire salt mine.

"I know it’s been a long time since it was played, but that game still hurts. It really does," Dixon said.

To realize just how much it hurts Dixon and the rest of the Browns who played in that game, you have to turn the clock back to calendar year 1987 – to be exact, Jan. 11, the day the game was played before a full house of 79,915 at old Cleveland Stadium.

Dixon wasn’t a businessman then, as he is now. He was the Top Dawg and he, along with fellow Pro Bowl Frank Minnifield, embodied the spirit of the Browns – and of Cleveland - at that time.

The team was made up of characters who had character – players who had ability on the field and off it. They were players with whom Browns fans easily identified. They loved playing here.
Some of them, such as Boardman native Bernie Kosar, Clevelander Bob Golic and Canton’s Ray Ellis, were even from here, so it made their stake in all this just that much greater. It was more personal. They were playing for their boyhood friend who still lived in the old neighborhood, their uncle who weaned them on stories of Otto Graham, Bill Willis and Lou Groza when they were growing up, and the elderly man down the street whose grass they used to mow when they were kids.

They didn’t need a road map to get around town. They knew these roads like the back of their hand.

And the players who didn’t grow up here made you think they did by the way they adopted the community as their own.

As such, the Browns players had a wonderful relationship with the fans. They played for the fans, and they played up to them as well.

When the team began winning, following up an 8-8 season in 1985 by going 12-4, capturing eight of their last nine regular-season games and gaining home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs, it only manifested the situation.

The high point heading into that game against the Broncos was what had happened the previous week. The Browns, down by 10 to the New York Jets with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter in the divisional playoffs at Cleveland, put on one of the greatest comebacks in team history to win, 23-20, in double-overtime.

Ask the modern Browns fan for his most memorable game, and he’ll pick that one. Hands down.

It wasn’t just a football game. It was a statement by a team and a city that was yearning to make one. The Browns, like Cleveland in general at that point, had been knocked down, but they were fighting back. Everybody loves an underdog, and they really love one in Cleveland.

The time between the triumph over the Jets and the game against Denver was a week-long party. People sang songs – "Bernie, Bernie" played to the tune of "Louie, Louie" – toasted each other and the Browns, and generally made merry as they awaited the visit by the Broncos.

The Browns were going to win and, at long last, make it to the Super Bowl. It was a sense that everyone had.

"Is there anyone in Northeast Ohio who doesn’t believe the Browns will win?" Ed Meyer, then the Browns beat writer from the Akron Beacon Journal, wrote in explaining his reason for predicting a Cleveland victory.

But the feeling wasn’t confined just to this region. It was also reverberating nationally.

"This is the Browns’ time," Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, a former Browns player, Painesville native and John Carroll University product, said while working as an analyst on NBC’s pre-game show. "The stars are all aligned in the right way. Everything seems to be in the Browns’ favor."

Maybe so, but the game was anything but easy. The Broncos matched the Browns point for point. It wasn’t until Brian Brennan turned Denver safety Dennis Smith into a pretzel as he turned him one way and then another in catching a 48-yard touchdown pass from Kosar with 5:43 left in the fourth quarter, that either team had any real breathing room. That put the Browns up, 20-13.

The fans’ wishes were coming true. The Browns were going to the Super Bowl, and Brennan was going to be the hero. The highlight that would be shown over and over and over again from that game – even years later – would be of Brennan, holding the ball behind him and looking back at a helpless Smith, who had been faked flat onto the ground, as he skirted into the end zone. In the background could be seen Browns fans jumping up and down with unbridled joy.

This was 1964 all over again.

Even the players, who obviously have to guard against being over-confident and, as they say, counting their chickens before they’re hatched, thought at that point that the Browns were going to win. That feeling became much greater – from both the players and the fans – when the Broncos botched the kickoff return and they had to fall on the ball at their own 2 just to keep possession.

"There’s no doubt we thought we had them," Dixon said. "Who would have ever thought they’d drive down the field 98 yards on our defense? We had Pro Bowl cornerbacks (Dixon and Minnifield). We had good linebackers. And the guys up front with the pass rush gave everything they had."

But even with all that going for them, and even though they were in their own stadium with the crowd going wild and rooting them on, the Browns still couldn’t stop the Broncos. Denver went 98 yards in15 plays in 5:44 for the tying touchdown, the scoring coming on third-and-one from the Cleveland 5 when Elway rifled the ball to wide receiver Mark Jackson on a quick slant with 37 seconds left.

"We were really never concerned at any point on that drive, because the thought in the back of our minds all along was that they had to score a touchdown," Dixon said. "They couldn’t settle for a field goal. They had to score a touchdown, and we felt that sooner or later, we’d stop them."
That never happened, though, of course. But it came close to happening.

The key play occurred after nose tackle Dave Puzzuoli sacked Elway for an eight-yard loss, setting up a third-and-18 situation from the Cleveland 48 with 1:47 left. It looked like the Broncos were done.

As Elway was standing in shotgun formation waiting for the snap, running back Steve Sewell went in motion. A miscommunication problem caused center Billy Bryan to snap the ball to Elway at about the same time Sewell was crossing behind Elway. The ball grazed Sewell in the leg and hit the ground, but instead of it beginning to bounce crazily, as one would expect with the well-worn grass surface at the old stadium, the ball came right up to Elway. It was an artificial surface-like hop.

"There were so many things like that, just crazy stuff that happened – stuff that normally doesn’t happen," Dixon said.

Also, on the scoring pass, the ball seemed to go directly between the raised arms of Browns tackle Carl Hairston as he rushed Elway. The quarterback’s pass seemed to be a field-goal attempt that split the uprights of Hairston’s arms.

There was extensive criticism of Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer, the team’s former defensive coordinator, for allegedly going into a prevent scheme on the final drive. The Browns had held Elway and the Broncos to just 13 points for well over 3½ quarters playing their base 3-4 alignment.

But Dixon won’t even comment on such criticism.

"Don’t put the blame for what happened on anyone but us: the players," Dixon said. "If we had executed the way we were supposed to, we would have stopped them. But we didn’t. We didn’t make it happen. So blame the players."

The Browns won the toss to start the overtime and got the ball first, but went three-and-out.

The Broncos took over at their own 25 following Jeff Gossett’s ensuing punt and moved 60 yards in four plays to set up for the game-winning 33-yard field goal of Rich Karlis, a native of Salem in Columbiana County, who had grown up rooting for the Browns.

Even that was not without controversy, however. The ball soared off Karlis’ foot, so much so, in fact, it went high above the height of the uprights. A photo of the kick in Sports Illustrated, looking at it from Karlis’ back as he drove the ball at the closed end of the stadium, shows that the ball was dangerously close to being wide left. To this day, many – mostly from Cleveland – believe the kick was no good.

"I’m one of those people. I don’t think it was good," Dixon said. "I mean, we’re at home, so I think we should get that call."

But they didn’t. So instead of the Browns going to the Super Bowl, it was the Broncos.

"The thing that really hurt was for Denver to play like they did against us and then for them to just lay an egg in the Super Bowl (losing 39-20 to the New York Giants)," Dixon said. "We were a more physical team than Denver, and I think we would have matched up better against the Giants, especially defensively, than they did. There’s no doubt in my mind that if we had beaten Denver, we would have gone on to beat the Giants and been Super Bowl champions."

Then Dixon laughed. It was that kind of "Oh, man" laugh, the one that’s used to shield disappointment.

"It just wasn’t meant to be," he said. "No matter what we did, Denver was destined to win that ballgame. The good Lord upstairs just did not want us to make it that year, I guess."

Then he added, "You know, though, that was our own opportunity to get where this team has never been before – to the Super Bowl. These current Browns are going to have to get to a Super Bowl soon so that people will stop asking me about that game."

For what it’s worth – not much, in the eyes of Browns fans – here’s the painful play-by-play recap of The Drive:
Denver ball (5:32 left in fourth quarter). Cleveland 20, Denver 13.
1-10-Denver 2 – Sammy Winder 5 pass from John Elway (tackled by Hanford Dixon).
2-5-Denver 7 – Winder 5 run (Reggie Camp, Mike Johnson).
Denver takes its first timeout.
3-2-Denver 10 – Winder 2 run for first down (Camp).
1-10-Denver 12 – Winder 3 run (Anthony Griggs).
2-7-Denver 15 – Elway 11 run for first down (Chip Banks).
1-10-Denver 26 – Steve Sewell 22 pass from Elway for first down (Chris Rockins).
1-10-Denver 48 – Steve Watson 12 pass from Elway for first down. (Ray Ellis, Frank Minnifield).
Two-minute warning.
1-10-Cleveland 40 (1:59) – Elway passes incomplete to Vance Johnson (Ellis in coverage).
2-10-Cleveland 40 (1:52) – Elway sacked for 8-yard loss (Dave Puzzoli).
Denver takes its second timeout.
3-18-Cleveland 48 (1:47) – Mark Jackson 20 pass from Elway for first down (Felix Wright).
1-10-Cleveland 28 (1:19) – Elway passes incomplete to Watson (Sam Clancy in coverage).
2-10-Cleveland 28 (1:10) - Sewell 14 pass from Elway for first down (Clancy).
1-10-Cleveland 14 (:57) – Elway passes incomplete to Watson (Clancy in coverage).
2-10-Cleveland 14 (:42) – Elway 9 run (Clay Matthews).
3-1-Cleveland 5 (:39) – Jackson 5 pass from Elway for touchdown.
Rich Karlis kicks extra point. Cleveland 20, Denver 20 (:37).
Drive: 15 plays, 98 yards, 4:55 consumed.