Owl: The Sunshine Boys

Winslow may be gone, but the show must go on...

Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel are the 21st century edition of the Sunshine Boys, and after six years of mostly gloom and doom, no one should be complaining.

Perhaps their approach to playing without Kellen Winslow Jr. and not missing him tremendously is a bit unrealistic. It's like hearing: "Ladies and gentlemen, instead of Tom Cruise starring in Mission Impossible III, The Owl will have the lead role, but don't worry about it. Acting is acting." Trust me - that would not be good.

Still, the attitude Crennel and Savage express about moving on is refreshing. Certainly, it beats Terry Robiskie saying, "We have to tear up half the playbook," as he did last year when Winslow was injured in the second game. Robiskie is honest, sometimes brutally so, but his was a defeatist attitude, and for most of 2004 the Browns played like a defeated team.

"This is really the first bump in the road we've had," Savage said. "Most everything has been positive since we got here in January, (but) if you listen to talk radio or read the newspaper or follow the Browns at all, you sense people are thinking, 'Here we go again. It's the same old story with a different guy.'

"As we try to reshape the mentality of our team and organization, we're going to have to rely on certain players that have been here and those that have come on board since Coach and I got here to get rid of the 'Woe is me, let's run for the hills mentality,' that seems to permeate in Cleveland in general. It's not sound thinking when you're trying to put together a winning squad.

"We are a team. This is not a group of individuals, but a team. Not only will that simple message of just keep plugging away come from the players, but also the coaching staff. There's no coach in the league more equipped to handle a situation like the one we're facing potentially than Romeo, because he's been there."

An MRI was performed on Winslow's injured knee Tuesday. The Browns learned Wednesday what his foolish motorcycle ride May 1 will mean in terms of surgery and games lost, but the Winslow family won't allow the information released. Indications, however, are he is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Coach Crennel acknowledges the Browns will miss Winslow, described by Savage as a 'blue-chip player', but passing camp begins Monday, and there is no time to dwell on not having Winslow available.

"It really doesn't change the system," Crennel said. "I don't think (offensive coordinator) Maurice (Carthon) is going to put in a new offense. The system is the system and it's designed to work with or without any particular player.

"We're going to go forward with what we have. We have some guys already here so it's not like we have to go pull a guy off the street and say 'you have to play tight end.'"

Browns tight ends caught 61 passes last season, and only five of those catches were by Winslow. Steve Heiden led the tight ends with 28, even though he missed first three games with a knee injury. Aaron Shea caught 26 despite not catching any in the first three games and missing a game in December with an ankle injury.

To Winslow's credit, he has been working out daily at the Browns complex since May 11, one day after being discharged from The Cleveland Clinic. That doesn't make him a hero or even a team player, but at least he's doing what he can to strengthen his knee so he could resume his career as soon as possible.

To the Browns credit, they have chosen a wait-and-see approach before deciding whether to recoup the money they can get from Winslow for violating his contract by riding the motorcycle. This is not an act of kindness as much as it is sound judgment; if Winslow loses his money, he might lose his will to get back on the field as well.

Waiting serves another purpose. It shows Savage, Crennel, owner Randy Savage and president John Collins will not be a knee-jerk management team. No one should regard going after $5 million of what is rightfully the Browns' money as retaliation. It is sound judgment because once the money is restored it is cleared from the salary cap.

When the decision is ultimately made, team officials will move ahead quickly. The Sunshine Boys won't dwell on problems. That isn't their style.

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