The Cleveland curse

BEREA, Ohio – Inscribed along the inside of Kellen Winslow's lower left arm is what should be the motto of the Cleveland Browns:

"There is no success without struggle."

If years of struggling were the barometer of such things, Cleveland would be this season's Super Bowl favorite. But the Browns' current state pretty much dismisses that possibility.

The quarterback position is in flux as first-round pick Brady Quinn has finally ended his holdout. Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley is still recovering from a knee injury and infection that almost led to amputation. And the defensive line just lost its best player, Orpheus Roye, for most, if not all, of training camp. Factor that Cleveland is in the tough AFC North and has a 40-88 record since returning to the NFL in 1999 and you have all the reasons for pessimism.

Caught in the middle of disappointment and misfortune have been Winslow and wide receiver Braylon Edwards, likely the saving graces if the Browns are to avoid another ugly campaign in '07.

"It took a couple of years for me to figure (out how to handle the hard times), between dealing with the injury and losing for the first time," said Edwards, who perennially challenged for the Big Ten title at Michigan. "You get frustrated when things like that happen."

At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds and blessed with stunning speed for his size, Edwards could be Cleveland's equivalent of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin … if he can focus, as coach Romeo Crennel has preached.

"He has a lot of things going on and off the field that he wants to do," said Crennel, going into his third year with the franchise. "He's such a talented guy that everybody is looking to get him on all these endorsement, in clothing lines, all this stuff. I told him, 'You have to take care of football first and then all that stuff will come.' Do it on the field."

Edwards, who missed six games as a rookie in 2005 with a staph infection and a torn right ACL, is getting the message.

"Romeo has said a lot of things since I got here that have slowly started to set in," Edwards said. "I notice myself thinking about a situation and remembering what Romeo said."

Aside from focus, Edwards needs patience. During a loss late last season, he blew up on starting quarterback Charlie Frye, an incident that gained national attention.

"Everybody gets frustrated," said Winslow. "It's just that a (Terrell Owens), a Chad Johnson, a Braylon Edwards or a guy like me, they have a big name and the camera is going to be on them at all times. You have cameras on them at all times, so you have to watch when you say stuff. That was just frustration coming out at the wrong time. You have to learn from it and move on."

Winslow has found success after his own bout with distractions and frustration. Winslow, the No. 6 overall pick in 2004, missed all but two games his first two seasons. He broke a leg in his rookie season and a severely injured a knee in a 2005 motorcycle accident.

Winslow came back to catch 89 passes last season and is flashing brilliance in training camp. Moreover, he has an appreciation for the game from his two years in purgatory.

"This is all I ever wanted to do through my life from as early as I can remember and nothing is going to stop me from achieving what I want to do and being one of the best ever," Winslow said. "The accidents aren't going to stop me."

Much of Winslow's motivation is trying to measure up to his Hall of Fame father Kellen, who is considered one of the greatest tight ends ever.

"I've always wanted to be like my father. The game itself, I love it, the competitiveness of the game" the younger Winslow said. "He wanted me to go play baseball or basketball, something other than football. But I just loved the game and I've always loved it. It brings out the best in me."

There's so much scar tissue in Winslow's knee that it takes him an hour to warm up before practice. This offseason, he also had to have microfracture surgery on the knee to relieve pain from lost cartilage.

"Sometimes I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to practice, but I find a way. I have to work my way around it. Sometimes when I cut, it's really painful. I have to do things differently," Winslow said. "I think a lot of people wouldn't be playing through what I've been through."

It has to be equally hard, given everything the Browns have been through during that same time.