Second coming: Cast-off Suggs back in Browns camp

Updated: August 20, 2006, 10:59 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

BEREA, Ohio -- Back with a franchise that only two days earlier had determined that he was essentially excess baggage, Cleveland Browns tailback Lee Suggs allowed on Wednesday afternoon that he now faces a weighty conundrum: He will try to make the most of his current situation, Suggs said, but acknowledged that he has no concept of what the future holds for him.

Jet-ing Back
Derrick Strait
Strait
Talk about a bizarre 24 hours. Derrick Strait went from New York to Cleveland and back to New York in his topsy-turvy journey for a trade that never panned out.

The defensive back was sent to Cleveland for running back Lee Suggs on Monday. Strait arrived at the Browns' facility Monday evening, met with coaches, got his playbook and passed his physical.

Tuesday morning, he attended meetings and was getting ready for practice when he got the news: he had to go back to New York because Suggs failed his physical with the Jets. So Strait hopped on an afternoon flight, got back in the evening and got ready for another day.

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"Things didn't work out, and so I guess I've got to go with what it is," said Suggs, traded to the tailback-needy Jets on Monday, and then returned to the Browns when he failed the New York physical exam on Tuesday morning and the trade was nullified. "Whatever it is."

It is, of course, an awkward situation for all parties concerned. Browns officials and coaches attempted to put the best spin possible on welcoming back to practice a player they had dealt away in return for third-year defensive back Derrick Strait. And Suggs, who had welcomed the opportunity for a fresh start with a team that needs to locate a replacement for injured tailback Curtis Martin, is confronted by trying to work hard for a franchise that viewed him as superfluous.

Essentially, everyone went through the motions during the Wednesday practice. The coaches worked with Suggs, even staying after the practice to watch as he fielded balls from a mechanical passing machine, and the fourth-year veteran running back did what was required of him.

But, clearly, Suggs was frustrated by the sudden reversal of fortunes, and by the uncertainty that lies ahead.

With the Jets, he almost certainly would have quickly challenged for the starting job, as Martin probably will not be ready for the start of the season, and could be forced into retirement by chronic knee problems. Here, Suggs is no better than the No. 3 tailback, in reality probably fourth on the depth chart, and could be a released before the start of the season.

"It's weird," Suggs said, walking off the field, "how [suddenly] your life can change. But I guess things happen."

While the Jets did not elaborate on the reasons for failing Suggs on the physical, sources said team doctors did not like the state of his left knee, which he injured in college in 2001. But the knee had not been of any concern in recent years for Suggs, whose professional career has been stalled by other injuries. And Suggs had not missed any practice time in camp this summer.

Lee Suggs
Suggs

Every team in the league establishes its own standards for physical exams, which by nature are subjective and open to interpretation. So while Suggs was practicing with the Browns, and the team issued a statement insisting he is healthy, the Jets were within their rights to void the deal.

Suffice it to say the move did not sit well with Cleveland officials or with Suggs, who already had a Jets playbook, and was prepared to begin practicing on Tuesday afternoon. He underwent a four-hour physical on Tuesday morning and then, Suggs said, he was informed by a Jets functionary that he had failed the exam.

"I never talked to [coach Eric] Mangini or the general manager [Mike Tannenbaum] about the results of the physical," Suggs said. "The intern who was driving me back to the dorm told me. I was shocked, really, at the news. And that was it. I was on my way back here."

And, it seems, on his way to limbo.

Clayton: Quick Hits
ALT HERE
The Jets will have to work another trade to help out their troubled backfield after they failed Lee Suggs on his physical because of concerns about a knee.

• For more of John Clayton's Quick Hits, click here

Suggs, 26, has had a history of physical setbacks in Cleveland, where he has appeared in 25 games with three starts over the last three seasons. The former Virginia Tech standout, a fourth-round choice in the 2003 draft, has run for 1,048 yards and four touchdowns on 262 carries.

Seventh-year veteran Reuben Droughns, who rushed for 1,232 yards last year in his first season with the Browns, and then signed a three-year contract extension in March, is the unchallenged starter. Former first-round draft choice William Green seems to have secured the backup job and rookie Jerome Harrison, a fifth-round draft choice, is being groomed for a third-down role.

Which leaves Suggs privately questioning where he stands and whether the Jets' move could create the perception around the league that he is damaged goods.

"It's a problem, definitely, because the whole 'failed physical' thing is out for now for everybody to see," Suggs said. "You don't know how teams are going to view that. If they do their homework, they'll find out that I'm as healthy as I've been in a long time. If they just read that I failed the physical in New York, and don't ask any questions, then they're only getting the Jets' view of things. That's weak."

Suggs said he prefers to remain with the Browns but allowed the numbers game could work against him.

"They told me to just pick up where I left off when I [departed] here, and that's all I can do is to work as hard as I can, and see what happens," Suggs said. "I mean, right now, there's really nothing else to do."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.