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GM: Browns dealing with 'staph infection outbreak'

BEREA, Ohio -- Browns center LeCharles Bentley was recently
hospitalized with a staph infection following season-ending knee
surgery, raising concerns of contamination at Cleveland's training
facility.

Bentley's infection is the fifth known case of staph for a
Browns player in the past three years, a pattern general manager
Phil Savage described as "a staph infection outbreak."

Since 2003, linebacker Ben Taylor, wide receiver Braylon Edwards, safety Brian Russell and tight end Kellen Winslow had
various strains of staph, a bacteria that enters the body through
the skin and can cause serious health problems.

"There's something going on around here," said Winslow, who
contracted staph following knee surgery after a motorcycle accident
last year. "A lot of people have had it. They need to do
something."

Bentley, a former Pro Bowler and the Browns' prized free agent
signing last offseason, tore his patellar tendon during the club's
first 11-on-11 play of training camp on July 27 and had surgery the
following day.

Savage said Bentley came down with the infection after the
operation and had the infection cleaned out on Aug. 28. Savage said
Bentley was hospitalized for "a significant amount of time."

Bentley, who signed a six-year, $36 million contract in March,
was already facing a long recovery from his knee injury. Savage
doesn't feel the staph infection has slowed Bentley's comeback
significantly.

"It shouldn't be a huge setback," he said. "We'll have a
better idea in February."

Savage also refused to give any details on right offensive
tackle Ryan Tucker's absence from the team. On Thursday, coach
Romeo Crennel said Tucker, who hasn't been with the team since
Sunday's loss to Denver, had a "medical illness."

"We're not at liberty to discuss it," Savage said. "You start
breaking laws when you talk about these medical and injury
situations."

Savage said Bentley's infection sent them to the Cleveland
Clinic, the club's longtime health-care provider and current
sponsor, for answers.

"We asked them to review our building, our practices, their
facilities, a full review," he said.

"They have since come back to us and informed us that their
conclusion is that any of the cases we've had have been unrelated
and the Browns have done everything possible to prevent any kind of
infections in our locker room, on the field, in the indoor
[facility], all those things."

People can get staph from contaminated objects, and the
infection can be spread by skin-to-skin contact.

The Browns aren't the first NFL team to have battle staph, which
has become increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

Earlier this year, the Washington Redskins hired a company to
treat their practice facility in Ashburn, Va., with a spray that
controls the growth of bacteria and mold. Before the spraying to
combat MRSA -- a potent form of staph -- the team installed new
carpeting and painted its locker room, weight room and training
room.

In 2003, five St. Louis Rams who suffered turf burns developed a
type of staph infection resistant to the common antibiotic of
methicillin. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine last
year said a few members of the San Francisco 49ers developed
infections after playing the Rams.

Dr. Steven Gordon, the Cleveland Clinic's chairman of infectious
control, said the Browns' cases were isolated.

"They weren't all MRSA. There was no evidence of clustering,"
he said. "Each of these cases stand on their own."

Savage said the club doesn't plan to bring in an independent
consultant to address the staph situation.

"Our partner is the Cleveland Clinic," he said. "We've
trusted them with the medical care of our players. We're trusting
the clinic that they're on top of this."

The Browns have discussed the possibility of staph being present
on the field turf in their indoor practice facility.

"It's like grass, but a guy sweats and he spits and all that
rubberized material is down in there," Savage said. "It's
something the high-ups are probably looking into on a league-wide
scale."