Browns TE Winslow: Both sides know where each was coming from

BEREA, Ohio -- Kellen Winslow didn't utter a word about staph infections or suspensions. After a contentious, confusing week laced with suspicion, innuendo and dueling statements, the Pro Bowl tight end returned to the Cleveland Browns on Monday eager to restart his disrupted season.

"I'm ready to move on and just play football," he said.

Winslow and the Browns appear to have made a truce, albeit a tenuous one.

Suspended one game last week by the club, which later rescinded its penalty, Winslow rejoined his teammates one day after the Browns won for the second time this season without him.

Winslow spoke briefly in front of his locker before heading to a team meeting. The 25-year-old said he has worked out his differences with Browns general manager Phil Savage and owner Randy Lerner.

"They knew where I was coming from and I understood where they were coming from, so it is all worked out," he said. "I am just excited to get back to playing football, doing what I love to do. I just really see this as a challenge, so I am going to meet it."

Winslow was banned from the team's facility last week by the Browns, who suspended him for criticizing the team's handling of his three-day hospitalization at the Cleveland Clinic with a staph infection. After initially agreeing with the team to keep his illness concealed, Winslow revealed he had staph following a loss at Washington last week.

Two days later, the Browns suspended the outspoken Winslow one game without pay for disparaging comments and behavior toward the organization. Winslow insists he was coming forward to protect the health of his teammates. He has had staph twice and is one of at least six known Cleveland players to contract staph since 2005.

Winslow appealed the suspension, which was dropped late Saturday night after the Browns reportedly learned Winslow had received text messages from a member of Cleveland's media relations staff who told him not to reveal he had staph.

After Sunday's 23-17 win in Jacksonville, Savage downplayed the importance of the text messages and said he and Winslow's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had been working toward a settlement since Thursday.

Savage also suggested Winslow had been hospitalized for something other than staph and the club was trying to protect the player's privacy.

"If there's going to be disclosure, there's got to be full disclosure," Savage said outside Cleveland's locker room in Jacksonville. "We were trying to do the right thing by him and his family."

Savage was asked why Winslow had been hospitalized.

"I don't know," said Savage. "I think it's all in a gray area right now. You can ask him [Winslow]."

Before coach Romeo Crennel's news conference Monday, an agitated Savage came into the team's media room to discuss his postgame comments.

"Once and for all, Kellen's illness was determined to be a staph infection," Savage said tersely. "He had been in the hospital for two or three days; it takes a couple days to figure out what something is. Secondly, there was no secondary illness. Thirdly, he is in the building, he has worked out and the team meets at 1 o'clock.

"That's the end of the story. It is over with, OK? There is no secondary illness. Staph infection. Everybody's got it, right?"

Later, Crennel said he was happy to have Winslow back and the star had returned with a good attitude.

"I've spoken with him and he wants to be a Brown," Crennel said. "I think that he's going to come out and he's going to give us a good effort and a good performance."

The Browns are 2-0 without Winslow, who was released from the hospital the day before their Oct. 13 upset of the New York Giants. On Sunday, backup tight end Steve Heiden led the club with 73 yards receiving, picking up 51 on a fourth-and-1 catch to set up Cleveland's second touchdown.

Heiden also played well in the win over New York, making five catches for 59 yards as the Browns stunned the defending Super Bowl champions 35-14.

Crennel was effusive in praising Heiden, who had a career-high 43 receptions in 2005 when Winslow missed the season following a motorcycle accident.

"He is an all-around tight end, tremendous teammate and when you call on him to do something, he does whatever you call on him to do," Crennel said. "If that is to be the starter, he is the starter. If that's to be the No. 2 guy, then he's the No. 2 guy and he's always for the team, always for the Browns.

"That is the kind of attitude a coach likes on his team. We have to build on that and move forward with that."

Crennel chuckled when asked if Heiden would take Winslow's starting spot.

"We're going to work Kellen in and I'll say this: Don't be surprised if Kellen is the starter," Crennel said. "I'm not saying he's the starter, but don't be surprised if he's the starter."

At this point in the Winslow saga, nothing would be surprising.