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Published: Wednesday, 8/29/2007

Browns delay Bentley comeback

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEREA, Ohio - Browns center LeCharles Bentley's comeback has been delayed, and cornerback Gary Baxter expressed frustration yesterday with media portrayals of his return from injury.

Cleveland placed Bentley on the physically unable to perform list to give his surgically repaired knee more time to heal.

Bentley has yet to practice, but hasn't given up on playing this season and had hoped to begin practicing with the team by the end of August.

"He's disappointed, but because we sat down and we talked about it - he's been in my office every week - he appreciates my concern," coach Romeo Crennel said. "I've told him all along I want the best for him."

By placing Bentley on the PUP list, he will be permitted to attend team meetings and continue his rehabilitation at the team's facility. After six weeks on the PUP list, the Browns will have three weeks to allow Bentley to begin practicing.

If Bentley begins practicing, the Browns have three weeks to make a decision on his roster status - they can add him to the 53-man roster, place him on injured reserve or leave him on the PUP list for the rest of the season.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection with New Orleans, Bentley signed a six-year, $36 million contract in March, 2006, to join his hometown team, then tore his left patellar tendon on the first full-contact play of Cleveland's camp last summer.

Following surgery to repair the tendon, a staph infection attacked the knee and Bentley needed three more surgeries. Bentley has said doctors considered amputating his leg.

The Browns gave Bentley an MRI exam when he reported for training camp and decided he should continue his personal rehab for another four weeks.

Baxter, who is attempting an unprecedented comeback after tearing both patellar tendons on the same play last October, lashed out at media reports saying he had a setback when he wasn't at practice last week.

"I didn't come out for those couple days. What's that mean? Was that a setback?" he said. "You guys ain't wrote nothing positive about anything that I've done."

The Browns are in a bind with Baxter, who has not played in a preseason game. They removed Baxter from the PUP list at the start of training camp and by Saturday must put him on the active roster, place him on injured reserve, or cut him.

Baxter was initially told by medical experts that he might have permanent damage and could have trouble walking. Now, his goal is to play Sept. 9 against Pittsburgh.

The Browns should have left guard Eric Steinbach, their biggest free-agent signing during the offseason, back for the season opener after spraining his right knee earlier this month.

Steinbach said yesterday that he expects to be ready even though he won't play against Chicago tomorrow. He will miss all four preseason games.



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