The saga of LeCharles Bentley continues, and just how it will end is no clearer now than it was six months ago when general manager Phil Savage first revealed the Pro Bowl center was contemplating a third operation to repair the patellar tendon in his left knee.
Back in February, Savage said an operation in May or June was likely, but on June 4, the day Bentley was supposed to decide, his decision was that he would decide later. Now he plans to wait until the end of June to decide how to proceed.
Bentley signed a six-year, $36 million contract in March of 2006. He could not wait to put on the pads and play for his hometown team after four years in New Orleans. The dream ended when Bentley was injured on the first play of training camp.
Bentley has been working out in Arizona and Columbus, where he played while at Ohio State. He did not participate in the Browns off-season program.
Bentley and Savage have not spoken in more than three months. Not that players and general managers talk on a regular basis, but the Browns have gone out of their way to make sure they are not hanging over Bentley's shoulder. If Bentley does go through with the operation, assuredly ending any chance of playing before 2008, it would be done by a doctor outside the Browns' umbrella.
Savage said he does not know whether Bentley has a playbook so he can study Rob Chudzinski's offense, but he did say Chudzinski has spoken to Bentley at least once.
"With a player like LeCharles, you have to give him some freedom and some room to operate," Savage said. "Obviously, we've had some communication with his representatives."
Savage said the Browns could carry Bentley on P.U.P. and wait until October to make a decision if Bentley does not have the operation yet is not ready for training camp or the start of the season.
* The Browns remain hopeful cornerback Gary Baxter can defy the odds and make a comeback after tearing both patellar tendons last October. Though he is not participating in the OTAs and he will not be part of minicamp, Baxter is running under the supervision of trainers.
"If someone would have told me the night he got hurt that by June 5 he is going to be running on our field I would have been pleasantly surprised," Savage said.
* Joshua Cribbs, who has set franchise records for kick returns each of the last two seasons, has emerged as the leader to take over as the team's punt returner. His main competition is coming from rookie receiver Syndric Steptoe.
"If Josh can do it, it would be a real bonus for us. If he can't, we have a number of other guys who have been fielding them that are capable of doing it. We drafted Steptoe. Eric Wright can field punts. Antonio Perkins can field punts and has done it successfully in college. We have about six guys that are back there working on it everyday."
* The Browns have shuffled their scouting department since director of player personnel Bill Rees had to leave the team because of a family issue. T.J. McCreight has been promoted to personnel director and Steve Sabo has been promoted to director of pro personnel.
* Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn are dividing reps at quarterback equally. It will remain that way through a three-day minicamp starting June 11.
"The quarterback competition is going along good," Coach Romeo Crennel said. "We're still rotating the guys and giving everybody some work and I think we'll do that probably through our minicamp and then evaluate it a little bit further at that time to see where it leads. But all the guys -- all of them are still trying to learn the system."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He has a tremendous attitude and a good work ethic and I know from having gone against him for a couple years that he's a good player. I think that when we get the pads on and he gets this system down that he will be a good player in this system." -- Coach Romeo Crennel on guard Eric Steinbach