No player on the Browns' roster, with the possible exception of LeCharles Bentley, has had more misfortune over the last three years than cornerback Gary Baxter.
Baxter signed a six-year, $30 million contract in March of 2005 to be the featured player in the Browns secondary. After three seasons, he has played in only eight of 48 games. A torn pectoral muscle in 2005 finished his season early. Both patellar tendons were torn in October of 2006 and Baxter has not played since.
But he is trying to play again, and the Browns have obliged. The Browns signed the hard-luck cornerback to a one-year contract, two weeks after Baxter entered the market as an unrestricted free agent.
The most frustrating part of Baxter's patellar is no contact was involved. He tore both tendons while attempting to jump and break up a pass. Both knees buckled; one foot never left the ground.
Baxter worked relentlessly after spending more than two months in a hospital bed. He defied the odds and made the 53-man roster last season, but he was made inactive during every game the first six weeks and then was put on injured reserve when it became evident he would not be ready to play in 2007.
"Gary has shown great determination in his attempt to come back and we feel this contract will give him the opportunity to do just that here in Cleveland," general manager Phil Savage said. "We look forward to having him at close to 100 percent by training camp."
Baxter never lost hope. When people last year told him he could not make it back, he turned those negative predictions into motivation. He was disappointed at first when he was put on injured reserve last year, but then he became determined to play in 2008.
"This is very important for me to sign a one-year deal here and to finish something I started," Baxter said. "This has been a long process, but right now everything is going well and I'm going to continue my quest to make history.
"Both Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel brought me back and that shows a lot of loyalty and respect on the Browns' behalf. They know how hard I've been working. I'm running and feeling good. I'm putting in everything I've got. Things are looking very positive."
Baxter, 29, has a chance to help if he can play. The Browns are looking for a fourth cornerback after trading starter Leigh Bodden to the Lions. The top three are Eric Wright, Brandon McDonald and Daven Holly.