Rich's Rant: Who's Lying?

The soap opera in Berea enters its fourth day, with no end in site. As the story gradually leaks into the media, fans will start choosing sides. This is happening, writes Rich Passan, and is very bad for the team.

Someone's not telling the truth.

Is it Kellen Winslow Jr.? Or is it the Cleveland Browns?

Perhaps we'll never know, but the highly suspicious among us are being pulled in different directions.

When Winslow decided to air his dirty laundry publicly Sunday about his battle with a recent staph infection following the Browns loss to the Washington Redskins, he knew the club had to make a disciplinary move.

He had to know his outburst, leveled heavily at General Manager Phil Savage, would engender a rebuke of some sort. So, it was not surprising that Savage doled out a one-game suspension sans pay for conduct detrimental to the Browns.

You can't lash out at the people who sign your paychecks and expect to get away with it.

When it was announced by the club that Winslow was hospitalized and would miss the Oct. 13 Monday night game against the New York Giants with an undisclosed illness, curiosity flowed. Why undisclosed? Was it career threatening? Life threatening?

We were assured by the team that is was neither. But that was it. Nothing more. The door was slammed shut.

All kinds of rumors, several of a bizarre and embarrassing nature, began to circulate as to what was wrong with the tight end. Still, the club remained mum and said it was trying to protect the player, thus fanning the flames of curiosity. Protect him from what?

No one was able to unearth the story. We were told by the team that Winslow chose to keep his illness private. And when he returned to the team last week, he remained silent.

Maybe his family and friends knew. But no one else did.

That's why his outburst Sunday night was so stunning. Staph infection would have been among the last guesses as to the nature of Winslow's illness. Perhaps someone might have said jokingly that it was staph.

The club maintained Winslow wanted to keep the illness a secret. Winslow said the team wanted to keep it quiet. He said, they said.

Someone is lying.

Given the Browns' infamous history with staph infections, one can understand why the club would be so skittish. Fingers of guilt by some of the fans point in their direction.

Nowhere in the club's five-paragraph statement that announced Winslow's suspension Tuesday does it substantiate Winslow's claim that the team, not Winslow, wanted to keep this hush-hush.

"We are . . . committed to protecting the privacy of our players, particularly with regard to medical issues," the statement read in part. "To that end, following discussions with Kellen Winslow and his representation, the Browns agreed to make every effort to maintain the confidentiality of his recent medical condition."

That makes it sound as though Winslow wanted the privacy and the club agreed to honor it. He maintains it was not his decision and is angry it was portrayed that way to the media and public.

Someone is lying.

The timing of Winslow's outburst is curious. Why did he wait until after the Redskins game to level the charges? Good question. Here's another. Would he have gone off had the Browns won the game and he scored the winning touchdown or was responsible in some way for the victory?

The Browns lost to the Redskins and didn't look good in the process. The frustration level must have reached its boiling point within Winslow and he apparently decided to unload.

Don't lend any credence to the "piece of meat" remark. That's part of the frustration coming through and is nothing more than rhetoric.

The fact Savage didn't visit Winslow in the hospital struck a personal nerve with the tight end. Said it disappointed him. Reportedly, Savage and Winslow engaged in a heated conversation following the Redskins game. That sort of stuff worries fans.

The resultant suspension sends a strong message to other members of the club to keep their opinions (non-football presumably) to themselves. Savage had no choice but to issue the suspension.

But the underlying problem remains. Someone is lying. And it had better be Winslow because if it's the Browns, they've got a public relations nightmare on their hands. If that's the case, their credibility with the fan base is seriously damaged.

Right now, sides are being taken. It's splitting the fans. That's one area with which the club doesn't want to mess.

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