BEREA, Ohio (May 11, 2005) -- Ten days after surviving a potentially fatal motorcycle crash, Kellen Winslow began repairing his NFL career.
While Winslow's return to the field for the Cleveland Browns is still in question, the tight end visited the team's headquarters to start rehab on his injured right knee May 11, less than 24 hours after his release from the hospital.
"He was happy to be here," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "He was in pretty good spirits."
Winslow sustained unspecified injuries in a May 1 accident when he crashed his high-powered motorcycle into a raised parking lot curb at 35 mph. The Browns are most concerned about Winslow's knee, which will be re-examined in 7-10 days when swelling subsides, team president John Collins said.
The club said Winslow did not have any surgery during his hospital stay.
Respecting the wishes of Winslow's family and abiding by privacy laws, the Browns have not disclosed any specifics of what happened to their 21-year-old star, who missed 14 games last season as a rookie with a broken leg.
However, it's clear from what the Browns are permitted to discuss that Winslow is lucky to be alive.
"He easily could have been killed," general manager Phil Savage said.
Collins said it's too early to determine if Winslow, the club's first-round pick in the 2004 draft, will play this season. But despite a public outcry from outraged Cleveland fans who would like to see the team cut Winslow for breaking his contract, the Browns have no plans to release him.
"Absolutely not," Savage said. "We need him and we want him."
Winslow walked out of the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday with the aid of crutches, unable to put any pressure on his wrapped right leg. He was assisted into an awaiting SUV and taken to his home in suburban Westlake.
Before Wednesday, the Browns had been very vague about Winslow's accident. They had not provided an update on his status since releasing a statement on May 4 that said he was recovering from internal injuries.
By riding the motorcycle, Winslow violated a clause in his contract that stipulates he is not to engage in dangerous activities. The Browns have already paid him $5.05 million in bonus money over the past two seasons and could require Winslow to return some or all of it if he can't play.
"The contract is clear about an injury resulting from hazardous activities," Collins said. "It doesn't preclude anybody from doing those activities. It just protects the club in case somebody is injured or can't perform."
With rumors running rampant about the nature of Winslow's injuries and his future, Collins was asked if the former Miami star's career could be over.
"I don't think there is any indication that this is career-ending," Collins said.
Winslow's decision to ride the recently purchased motorcycle has been viewed as reckless and irresponsible -- a brazen act for someone with so much to lose. But despite the team's best attempts, Crennel said it's impossible to regulate what players do with their free time.
"We can't hold these guys' hands 24 hours a day," he said. "We've got 53 of them. We have to hope that they're going to make sound, logical choices. We will try and continue to educate and counsel them about their choices on and off the field."
While they're disappointed with Winslow's judgment, the Browns are relieved he wasn't hurt worse. Savage didn't have a sense of the severity of Winslow's injuries until he visited the hospital.
"It was quite a picture when Romeo and I went to visit him," he said. "You go into the intensive care unit and you see people clinging to life with hoses and wires and people on death's door, and here's this stallion of an athlete laying in the bed next to these people.
"We're thankful that he was here this morning and hopeful that he will be able to make a recovery in due time."
Crennel said Winslow "told me he was sorry about it."