Gary Baxter trotted onto the field at the Browns Monday evening practice and
shot a thumbs-up to fans and onlookers, his very presence on the field a
stunning development given the dual patellar tears he suffered during a game
last October against the Broncos.
At the time, predictions of Baxter's doom echoed through hospitals and the
media, as the Browns cornerback was told that he might not walk again. Playing
football seemed like a distant, unachievable dream.
But there he was on the practice field in Berea, his presence proving his
doubters wrong. The Browns corner participated in various drills during
practice, including activities that had him backpedalling and turning tight
Baxter practiced without any obvious signs of pain or even braces on his
surgically repaired knees.
"No braces, nothing on there", Baxter told reporters. "There’s not even a
brace to fit my injury. That’s how rare it is. I’m just going to go out there
and test the water. That’s what I did. I told you guys before that it was
uncharted water. I’m going to write the script. If there’s a book to be written,
I’m going to write it. That’s what I’m doing.”
Covering receivers in practice may still be sometime in the future, but
Baxter is confident it will happen, and potentially soon.
"The key to this whole rehab is that I’m not going to pressure myself to go
out there and prove a point", Baxter said, "I’m going to continue to be smart
and listen to my body. If I feel like I need the rest, I’m going to take the
rest. I’m going to do what I need to do to be ready for the first week. If I
need to do one-on-ones, I’ll do it. If I feel I need to do individuals for a
week, I’ll do it.
Whatever my body tells me, that’s what I’m going to do. Who knows, I might be
seven-on-seven next week."
At this point, few will doubt him, or his recuperative powers.
Single patellar tears have knocked out many veteran NFL players. The Browns'
LeCharles Bentley, for example, has been out of action since July 27th of last
year due to a patellar tear. Coming back from having both knees ripped up in
this fashion is unheard of in NFL history.
Baxter is fully aware of how unique his quick return to the game happens to
"Me being on this field today is history", he told reporters.
"This is July 30 and doctors said this wasn’t even in the plans. This wasn’t
in any book."
Keep reading, Browns fans. Every page that gets turned will be something new
in the history of the game.
DUELING QUARTERBACKS: Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson continue to both get
opportunities to work with the first team. Anderson may have had a slight edge
this evening, but both quarterbacks had nice moments. Frye under-threw several
passes, including one that was swatted away by CB Daven Holly
Anderson and Kellen Winslow timed up with a nice pass and catch during
scrimmaging, and Frye found Braylon Edwards twice. The earlier portion of
practice was marred by dropped passes, including an easy catch that was muffed
by Tim Carter. Both Josh Cribbs and Syndric Steptoe made impressive catches
during the practice.
OFFENSIVE PLOT-LINE THICKENS: Head coach Romeo Crennel has claimed a number of
times that Joe Thomas would have to unseat Kevin Shaffer from the left tackle
role. Even if that is technically true, Shaffer is already seeing a lot of time
at right tackle. The team's starting left tackle in 2006 was lined up on the right
side almost exclusively this evening, with Kelly Butler playing RT on the second
Both Seth McKinney and Ryan Tucker lined up next to Shaffer during practice
VIOLENT COLLISION: The hardest impact of the day was the one LB Chaun Thompson
made with WR Steve Sanders. Both players got up and walked away unharmed. NT Ted Washington trotted off the field about hour into practice, and came back later
sans helmet and pads, although he did not appear injured. Washington's veteran
(and large) status appears to occasionally afford him a break from the heat.