Winslow appeals suspension; Browns held staph news from players

BEREA, Ohio -- Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow appealed his one-game suspension for critical comments he made about the Cleveland Browns' handling of his hospitalization with a staph infection, the latest development in a bizarre back-and-forth squabble.

Winslow was suspended without pay by general manager Phil Savage on Tuesday for comments and behavior disparaging to the organization. Winslow was critical of Savage and said he only came forward to reveal he had staph -- for the second time -- out of concern for his teammates' health.

Denise White, a publicist with EAG Sports Management, said Winslow appealed the suspension and filed the appropriate paperwork with the NFL Players Association.

Union attorney Adam Kaiser will represent Winslow in an expedited grievance proceeding before an arbitrator in Cleveland on Friday or Saturday. If Winslow loses, he will sit out Sunday's game in Jacksonville and forfeit $235,294, his one-game paycheck. If Winslow wins, he could keep his money and Kaiser said it's possible the 25-year-old could be reinstated in time to play against the Jaguars.

Whatever the outcome, Browns coach Romeo Crennel feels Winslow's rift with the team can be fixed.

"I think it is repairable," he said. "Kellen is not a bad kid. I have a pretty decent relationship with Kellen. With me personally, I feel that relations are repairable and we will go forward."

The unusual case pitting star player and struggling franchise began on Oct. 9 when Winslow was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic with an undisclosed illness.

According to Crennel and Savage, the team and Winslow made a joint decision to keep the player's medical condition confidential. However, when he returned to practice last week after missing Cleveland's 35-14 upset over the New York Giants, Winslow said it was the Browns who didn't want to disclose his illness. He said he agreed with their stance.

But Winslow broke the apparent pact following Sunday's loss in Washington, revealing he had staph and saying the team, which has had at least six known cases of staph since 2005, asked him to conceal it. He also lashed out at Savage for not calling him during his three-day stay in the hospital and said he felt he was being treated "like a piece of meat" by the team.

Savage responded by suspending Winslow and called the fiery player's comments and behavior "unwarranted, inappropriate and unnecessarily disparaging to our organization."

Winslow countered with his own statement, saying he spoke out because of a health concern and not because he's seeking a new contract from the Browns.

Despite the disturbingly high number of staph cases, Crennel said he abided by the team's understanding with Winslow and did not inform Cleveland's other players that the tight end had staph again.

"He was in the hospital and it was a personal issue," Crennel said in explaining the team's decision to keep Winslow's illness from his teammates.

This was Winslow's second bout with staph. He first contracted an infection following surgery on his right knee, which he severely injured in a near-fatal motorcycle crash three years ago. Winslow has had at least three other surgeries on the knee, which was most recently scoped during the past offseason.

While his suspension is in effect, Winslow is not allowed to attend practices, team meetings or be at the Browns' training facility.

Surprisingly, there was little reaction inside Cleveland's locker room to Winslow's suspension and not one player interviewed seemed alarmed by a new case of staph.

A few players, including center Hank Fraley and linebacker Andra Davis -- two team captains -- as well as tight end Steve Heiden, were reluctant to address Winslow's situation.

"I don't even want to talk about it," said Heiden, who will likely start in place of Winslow. "We're trying to beat the Jaguars, that's all I'm worried about. I can't wait to have Kellen back, and when he gets back we'll go to work with Kellen."

Quarterback Derek Anderson admitted he was somewhat surprised by the team's decision to suspend Winslow, who has a team-high 21 receptions and has been one of the Browns' best players the past three seasons.

"A little bit," Anderson said. "Obviously, they made a decision and went with it. I just play here."

As for the team's problems with staph, kicker Phil Dawson said the Browns have been proactive in educating their players about how to protect themselves from becoming infected. During training camp, infectious control experts from the clinic visited the team and explained the risks of staph and how to combat the virus, which has become more common in the NFL.

"This thing is everywhere," Dawson said. "All the information was given to us, literature we could take home. With all that said, you still feel for a fellow player who gets it. Your heart goes out to them and it's a scary thing, but I don't think it's isolated to the Cleveland Browns."