BEREA, Ohio – One of the best players on the Cleveland Browns roster took a little advice recently from the best player in franchise history and another elder statesman of the game.
Tight end Kellen Winslow showed up at the team's mini-camp this week after earlier indications this offseason that he might sit out because he wanted a new contract. When John Wooten heard talk in February about Winslow's potential absence unless a new deal was struck, he and Jim Brown advised the Pro Bowler to take a different approach.
"The team stood by Kellen when he got into his accident," said Brown, the Hall of Fame running back who serves as an advisor to the team. "He needed to respect that, come in and have another good year and then approach the team."
Winslow missed the 2005 campaign after an offseason motorcycle accident resulted in a severe knee injury which has had lingering effects. By riding the motorcycle, Winslow was in violation of a "dangerous activities" clause in his contract and the Browns could have sought to recoup nearly $8 million in signing and option bonus money paid to him after he was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2004 draft.
Instead, the Browns restructured the deal so that Winslow could keep the money if he returned in 2006 and 2007. Winslow has since become one of the top receiving tight ends in the NFL, catching more than 80 passes in each of the past two seasons.
While Brown had his jousts with management in his day – he quit in 1965 when then-Browns owner Art Modell demanded he return to training camp from the shooting of the "The Dirty Dozen" – he and Wooten both believe that Winslow had been given a fair shake by the team in the past.
"What Kellen was talking about just didn't sit right with us and we told him that," said Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance which helps promote minority candidates in coaching and executive roles in the NFL and college football. Wooten played for Cleveland as well and spent 44 years in the NFL working in personnel.
"The Browns did the right thing by him at a time when it wasn't that popular for them to do that. There were a lot of people who wanted them to go after the money," Wooten said. "I understand that the contracts in the NFL are difficult when a player outperforms them. There probably should be some way for a player to get out of a deal the way a team can get out if they want to cut him.
"But that's not what happened in this situation and we told Kellen that. Hopefully he comes back and has a big year and the team restructures the contract."
Winslow declined several media requests for interviews this week.