BEREA, Ohio (Aug. 23, 2006) -- Braylon Edwards always has had a flair for the dramatic.
Whether scoring game-winning touchdowns at Michigan, buying a $140,000 Bentley before he was drafted or making the Browns sweat during a training-camp contract holdout, the wide receiver knows how to work a crowd.
His latest act has Cleveland on edge.
Edwards, who returned to the practice field months ahead of doctors' predictions following reconstructive knee surgery, could make his preseason debut Aug. 26 when the Browns play the Buffalo Bills.
Coach Romeo Crennel said earlier this week there was a good possibility Edwards would play for the first time this preseason.
By midweek, Edwards wasn't so sure.
"I heard something on the news about I was playing this weekend, but that definitely is not certified, confirmed or anything," the flashy wide receiver said. "That's definitely up to them. To be honest, we haven't even talked about it. Definitely no word on that yet. My verifying that is not happening right now."
Edwards has made an amazing recovery from surgery on Jan. 3 to repair a torn right anterior cruciate ligament he suffered while trying to make a leaping catch in a Dec. 4 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Initially, doctors expected Edwards to need nine months of rehab before he could get back on the field. However, he returned in less than seven, and the former No. 3 overall pick appears as fast as ever.
"He sure looks good to me," cornerback Leigh Bodden said. "He hasn't lost a step to me. The only thing you can see is the knee brace. He's catching the ball over players. He's running good routes. He's cutting good. He looks fine to me."
Edwards said he isn't concerned about playing in Cleveland's third preseason game or in the Aug. 31 preseason finale against Chicago. His goal all along is to be ready for the season opener against New Orleans.
"I'm pretty much ready to get on the field," he said. "If I go, it's cool; if I don't, it's cool. As long as we have an open mind about Sept. 10th, that's all I really care about."
Crennel said he'll wait until after practice Aug. 24 -- the Browns' final training camp workout -- before deciding if Edwards will play this weekend.
"Even if I'm leaning in a certain direction and decide to play him, I think he'll only be in for a couple of plays or a series to see how he does," Crennel said. "We'll let him take some contact and stuff like that."
Crennel was asked if he was weighing risk over reward in playing Edwards during the preseason.
"Not necessarily. He's been out here in practice, and he's been doing well," he said. "The issue is the contact and where it occurs. Let's say he runs a crossing route and gets hit in the chest. He'll be able to get up from that, and it shouldn't be a problem. If he runs a crossing route and gets hit in the knee, we want to see him get up.
"If he gets up from that, then he'll feel better about it, and we'll feel better about it."
Although game contact is different, Edwards has weathered a few hard knocks in camp over the past week without a problem. For now, the Browns are requiring him to wear a protective brace, a necessary evil for Edwards.
"I don't have any leeway on that," Edwards said of the brace. "That's all on them. All the guys -- Romeo, (general manager) Phil Savage, (owner) Randy Lerner -- that's all their decision, and they are protecting me until the last possible second before I can begin to fight."
Edwards slipped the brace off for a play Aug. 21 and made a diving TD catch in the back of the end zone. Before the next play, the brace was in place.
"We just tell him, 'Braylon, we need the brace on,' and he'll put it on," Crennel said. "We might have whispered it to him yesterday."
Edwards has no fear of making any hard cuts, and his knee has responded well to the pounding of two-a-day practices.
"It hasn't swelled up on me," he said. "I come back the next day, and I'm able to go again full speed. That's definitely a good sign. Up to this point, we haven't had any kind of setbacks, so it's definitely going real well."
There have been times during his recovery, especially when the Browns were holding him out of team drills, that the injury presented bigger mental hurdles than any physical challenges.
As badly as he wants to play, as badly as he wants to toss away the brace, Edwards understands patience is paramount.
"It gets frustrating, and it gets aggravating at times," he said. "But it's for the best."
The Associated Press News Service
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