July 28, 2006 (Cleveland, Ohio) – This city was once dubbed “the mistake by the lake” and they have done a heck of a job trying to change the impression that visitors like myself get when we visit this blue collar city. The Cleveland Indians have played some inspired baseball the past few years. King James rules the throne in basketball with the Cavaliers and the Cleveland Browns, with their rich traditions, have made some great moves during the offseason.
I was looking forward to seeing the new additions to coach Romeo Cremmel’s stable yesterday as this is year two in his regime and optimism reigns supreme at the training headquarters in Berea, Ohio. That was until Thursday morning when the Brownies were conducting their first 11-on-11 drills and their most prized acquisition, All-Pro Center LeCharles Bentley, went down on an innocent running play. Whether it be NFL or College Football, the number one criteria for a winning team is a strong and healthy offensive line. The center is arguably next to a talented quarterback, the most important component in this unit.
He calls all the blocking assignments and every play begins with him huddling up the team and then commencing it with the snap of the ball. A Cleveland native, Bentley spent his first four years with the New Orleans Saints. He started at right guard in his first two seasons and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2003. The following year, Bentley moved to center and earned his second Pro Bowl selection in 2005.
The Browns forked over $36 million in the offseason to sign him to a 6-year deal and now he will miss the entire year with a torn patella tendon. Bentley’s injury is the latest for a Browns team beset by serious medical setbacks — No. 1 overall picks Courtney Brown and quarterback Tim Couch had several major injuries — since the club returned to the league as an expansion team in 1999.
On Thursday, tight end Kellen Winslow had his first contact after missing the past two seasons with major leg injuries. The Browns also are without wide receiver Braylon Edwards, their first-round pick in 2005, who is expected to be out until Oct. 1 following knee surgery.
While I realize that injuries are a big part of the world of football and playoff bound teams must overcome adversity, the Browns are done in 2006. With a young second year quarterback in Charlie Frye still learning on the job, this is one security blanket he desperately needed.
The good news for Ohio fans is that they still have the Ohio State Buckeyes to cheer for!