Berea—LeCharles Bentley is a changed man.
After experiencing a career threatening patellar tendon tear and a life-threatening staph infection, Bentley is glad to be back on the football field.
“I feel great,” Bentley proclaimed after his first practice back with the Browns. “I’m really blessed. There’s nothing more I could ask for. “
Bentley talked about what helped carry him through his darkest moments.
“There were so many factors and so many different emotions,” he said. “From dealing with losing my life or my leg and the quality of life, let alone to playing again. I have been steadfast in my faith, belief and prayer which has carried me through.”
Bentley looked in great shape and Romeo Crennel said the Browns would bring him along slowly.
“He passed the physical and will take part on a limited basis,” Crennel said. “We’ll see what he can do, what he can handle and take it step-by-step and day-to-day.”
Crennel thinks if Bentley can make his comeback complete, it will only help the Browns, even if he hasn’t played in two years.
“He was a good player who has been injured and now he’s been able to come back,” Crennel said. “It will be uplifting if he can play to the level he used to play at.”
Bentley passed his physical Monday, including the 40-yard sprints. He said he was put through contact drills last October and that contact wasn’t the issue.
“It was never an issue of me not passing (the physical),” Bentley said. “I’m as good as I’m going to get. The sky’s the limit for me. I’m going to be a better player.
“I had full contact last October,” he said. “The issue wasn’t the knee holding up, but more the mechanics of running.
“That was then and this is now,” he said. “The difference is night and day. I felt I was ready then, but I’m much better now.”
Bentley was asked how he might fit in with the Browns offensive line that was very good in 2007.
“They have some good players,” he said. “I’m just looking for the opportunity to compete.”
Where would he play?
“I came here as a center,” he said. “I would like to stay there, but whatever is best for the team, whether that be right guard or whatever.”
Hank Fraley, who was acquired in a trade after Bentley’s injury, has played very well the past two years.
“It’s makes us all better,” Fraley said. “I’m excited to see what he can do. It has been inspiring what he has been through and to see how he has handled it.”
Bentley was asked if there wasn’t deemed room for him on the Browns line, would he play somewhere else this season.
“There’s no doubt I will be starting some place in ’08,” he said.
Bentley said when he signed as a free agent with the Browns immediately after free agency began in 2006 that he took less money to come back to his hometown.
“To be a Brown will always be special,” he said. “It wasn’t a business decision to come to Cleveland. It was a decision in my heart.
“I’m still a fan of the Browns,” he said. “I’m a Cleveland guy and I’m excited from a fans perspective.”
Jamal Lewis is excited about the added prospect of having Bentley in front of him.
“It’s good to see him,” Lewis said. “I hope we can get him out there and see what he can do.”
K2 Back: TE Kellen Winslow was back for mini camp after missing the OTAs. Winslow took part in most drills, but was held out of some team drills.
“He’s working and we’re seeing what he can do,” Crennel said. “As we see what he can do, we’ll come to an agreement on what to have him participate in.”
|Winslow stretches prior to practice today|
Crennel was asked if he asked Winslow why he wasn’t in Berea earlier.
“It was voluntary,” he said. “He’s here now.”
The media requested Winslow to speak, but he was unavailable.
McDonald, Stallworth Absent: GM Phil Savage said that WR Donte Stallworth and CB Brandon McDonald were absent due to deaths in their families. He also said OL Lennie Friedman would be absent due to the birth of his daughter. Kelliana, however, was born early and Friedman was in attendance.
Injury Update: OL Ryan Tucker (hip) is expected back in August according to Savage and WR Steve Sanders is being held out with a foot injury. TE Steve Heiden (back) was back in a limited basis. WR Joe Jurevicius (knee) did not participate but has been rehabbing every day in the Browns facility. DB Gary Baxter (knees) participated in individual drills, but not team drills
Rucker Sparkles: TE Martin Rucker made a spectacular diving catch across the middle and then split the seam on another pass from QB Brady Quinn. On the other side, KR/WR Josh Cribbs dropped a couple of easy passes in team drills.
Camp Continues: The Browns will practice from 3-5 pm Tuesday and then 9-11 and 3-5 on Wednesday and Thursday.