Published: Friday, November 17, 2006
Winslow performing better than expected
The tight end is on pace for a record season and is still not totally healthy.
BEREA (AP) Jim Brown slowly worked his way around Cleveland's victorious locker room in Atlanta last Sunday, shaking hands and congratulating players on a rare road win for the Browns.
"Good game," the Hall of Fame running back told the son of a fellow Hall of Famer.
Brown also marveled at a fourth-quarter catch by Kellen Winslow, who took the reception and praise in stride.
"Thanks," Winslow said. "But I've got a long way to go."
He has already come further than many expected.
With 56 catches for 561 yards in nine games, Winslow is on pace to destroy Ozzie Newsome's club record of 89 receptions in a season. Newsome, another Hall of Famer, did it in 1983 and 1984.
In addition, Winslow, who missed nearly two full seasons with serious knee injuries, could threaten Tony Gonzalez's NFL record for catches by a tight end. Gonzalez had 102 receptions in 2004.
"I can't think about stats," Winslow said, "because I haven't done anything yet."
While Winslow may be modest about his individual accomplishments, the Browns have been impressed by the 23-year-old's remarkable recovery after missing 14 games as a rookie with a broken leg and then all of last season following a near-fatal motorcycle accident.
Coming into the season, the Browns were hopeful that Winslow would be able to contribute at a level befitting a former first-round draft pick. They knew he had talent, they didn't know it would blossom again like this.
And still, there is something else. What if he had never gotten hurt?
"I would have liked to see a healthy Kellen Winslow who is 100 percent," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "That would have been something to see."
Knee is about 85 percent
Winslow, who says his right knee is only "at about 85 percent" has made eye-popping plays all season.
Beginning with an eight-catch performance in the opener, Winslow has been Cleveland's most consistent offensive weapon, one that second-year quarterback Charlie Frye is turning to more and more every game.
Last week against the Falcons, Winslow spent some of the game lined up outside as a wide receiver. With him in that formation, defenses have to decide whether to cover the 6-foot-4, 248-pounder him with a linebacker (not a good idea), safety (usually not good either) or a cornerback.
"He's a walking mismatch," Browns safety Brian Russell said. "He's such a physical player, if you match him up with a cornerback, you get outmuscled. And he moves just like a wide receiver, so if you match him up with a linebacker or safety, he's got a big advantage.
"I guess that makes him kind of a 'tweener, but he's a great 'tweener to have."
With a few exceptions, Winslow has done a better job controlling his temper on the field. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct last week, but more than made up for the penalty with a 36-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
Lined up wide left, Winslow made an adjustment on a throw from Frye, cutting inside to make an acrobatic snag to set up a field goal.
He made that catch and 55 others this season on a sore right knee that will have to be operated on again this winter. This time, he'll have scar tissue removed, a minor procedure compared to the operations he had following his crash and after a staph infection caused him to lose 30 pounds.
Sunday after Sunday, Winslow leaves the stadium in pain and spends the next week preparing to do it all again. The Browns have closely monitored Winslow during the week so he's ready for kickoff.
"It hurts during the week but I prepare myself physically and mentally for the game," he said. "It feels about 85 percent. There are some plants I still can't make, but it's feeling pretty well."