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Browns try to help Winslow recoup financial losses

BEREA, Ohio -- As Kellen Winslow II slowly heals from a
serious motorcycle accident, the Cleveland Browns want to make sure
their relationship with the injured tight end hasn't suffered permanent damage.

Earlier this month, the club declined to pay Winslow a $2
million roster bonus because he violated a "dangerous activities"
clause in his contract when he wrecked his high-powered motorcycle
on May 1 while practicing stunts in a parking lot.

Winslow, who played in just two games as a rookie before
breaking his leg, could have been killed in the crash and sustained
several injuries, including a torn knee ligament that required
season-ending surgery.

But along with forgiving Winslow for his mistake, the Browns
still believe he can be a Pro Bowl-caliber player and have
generously offered him a chance to earn back the money they've
withheld.

The club is offering to restructure Winslow's contract, allowing
him to recoup some of his financial losses.

"We are currently discussing a structure that includes the
ability where he can earn the lion's share of what he could have
made," owner Randy Lerner said following Saturday's morning
practice.

Lerner said the club has had "productive" meetings with
Winslow, his family and agents Kevin and Carl Poston to resolve
what has been a sensitive issue for the team.

Since the accident, some outraged Cleveland fans have wanted the
Browns to cut Winslow for his irresponsibility while others think
he should return all the money he has been paid since being taken
with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft.

The team's approach is somewhere in between.

"Kellen and his family have been very communicative and very
direct and we are working through it," Lerner said. "We have had
a lot of meetings and the goal is to try and avoid a situation that
doesn't work out and doesn't give him an opportunity to make a
difference for the team.

"We want to make sure we don't cause a problem and that they
don't cause a problem and we're doing that in good faith."

Winslow, whose salary is just $350,000 this season, is due
another $950,000 bonus on Dec. 15 and $2.4 million on July 15,
2006. The Browns have been assured that Winslow, who turned 22 on
July 21 and is signed through 2009, will make a 100 percent
recovery and be the impact player they envisioned when drafting
him.

Lerner has deferred to first-year general manager Phil Savage in
deciding on which route to take with Winslow.

Lerner realizes there was a danger of sending the wrong message
if the Browns hadn't penalized Winslow for his careless act. If
they had stood by and not invoked their protective clause, the
Browns would appear to be giving in.

"You definitely take the teeth out of it [the clause] if you do
nothing other than say come back and make the same amount of
money," Lerner said. "But I don't think the new proposal does
that. I think the new proposal defends the Browns and it's rights.
But it also offers up the opportunity for the player. It is a
restructured, fresh look at the new facts. It is not us laying
down."

Last week, Winslow pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of
failure to control his vehicle. He was fined $150, court costs and
got two points on his Ohio driver's license.

Following his accident, Winslow issued a halfhearted apology in
which he said he was sorry to Browns fans and that is was "unwise
to attempt to learn to ride a motorcycle without a professional
instructor in a controlled environment."

Lerner said he wasn't bothered by Winslow's comments.

"I am a believer that Kellen is very well intentioned," Lerner
said. "He's a hard worker. He's here every single day training and
rehabbing. I therefore have chosen not to hang on to his every word
or overinterpret what he might have said at a moment when he was
shaken up and disappointed that he's not going to be able to
play."

As they're being rebuilt for the third time since 1999, the
Browns are attempting to bring in players of high character. Lerner
was asked if he viewed Winslow's accident as a youthful mistake or
a character flaw.

Lerner paused for 30 seconds before answering.

"I see it as a mistake," he said, "and it's a mistake that
can be understood without getting into heavy character flaws."