Winslow returns from undisclosed illness, not cleared to practice
BEREA, Ohio -- Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow rejoined the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, one week after he was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness that sidelined him for one game and could keep him out for another.
He's back with the team, but the timing on Winslow's return to the field is still unclear.
Winslow spent three nights at the Cleveland Clinic being treated for an illness that has been kept under wraps by the team, which cited privacy laws.
The 25-year-old Winslow was seen walking in the hallway at the team's training complex Thursday shortly before the Browns practiced outdoors. He remained inside the facility during the 30 minutes that are open to the media.
Coach Romeo Crennel said Winslow could practice on Friday as the club prepares for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins.
"He's a tremendous player and competitor and he makes plays," Crennel said of Winslow, who caught 82 passes for 1,106 yards last season. "I know defenses hate to see him out there because they have to decide how they're going to handle him, who they're going to put on him, if they need to double him or not. I think defenses rather he not be there.
"We want him back," Crennel said.
Winslow, whose NFL career has been slowed by injuries, was discharged from the hospital Sunday but was inactive for Cleveland's 35-14 upset of the New York Giants on Monday night.
Without Winslow, arguably the most indispensable player on Cleveland's roster, the Browns had their best game of the season. Steve Heiden started for Winslow and caught five passes for 59 yards. Backup tight end Darnell Dinkins caught a 22-yard TD pass and quarterback Derek Anderson completed 18-of-29 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions as the Browns (2-3) shocked the Super Bowl champions and saved their season.
Cleveland's high-powered offense, which sputtered in its first four games after scoring 402 points in 2007, rolled up 454 yards against one of the league's toughest defenses.
Heiden had become a forgotten man. He made just one reception in Cleveland's first four games, being used primarily to block on running plays. The 10-year veteran, who caught a career-high 43 passes in 2005 -- when Winslow missed all 16 games following a near-fatal motorcycle crash -- was happy the coaches had confidence he could contribute.
Although he's not utilized in the passing scheme the way he once was, Heiden has accepted his reduced role.
"You want to be as involved as you can be," Heiden said. "But in the years when I was catching all those balls, we had what, five wins? Last year, I caught 12 and we won 10 games. I would much rather win games than catch footballs."
Winslow's absence and the Browns' success without him in the lineup, has led to speculation how the team might fare if he was out for an indefinite period. Last year, the Giants seemed to play better after tight end Jeremy Shockey broke his leg and sat out their final few games and postseason run.
Heiden feels part of the reason he and Dinkins had success was that New York's defense didn't focus on them. He doesn't see the Browns expanding their roles this week -- with or without Winslow.
"Maybe it's just the fact that we're not getting double-teamed like Kellen," Heiden said. "But I don't see that [expansion]. When you have a guy who is as talented as Kellen is, you've got to throw him the ball."
Dinkins, one of the Browns' top special teams players, has no illusions about replacing Winslow, whose size and speed make him a tough matchup.
"I'm not Kellen Winslow," he said. "I understand that. I'm Darnell Dinkins. I'm just a fighter and a scrapper. I make the plays that I can make."
Crennel knows the Redskins, and future opponents, will be better prepared to deal with Cleveland's other tight ends.
"I think if anything the opponent might relax a little bit not having Winslow out there and underestimate those other guys," he said. "Once they see them and see what they can do and that we will go to them, they're not going to leave them by themselves or disregard them anymore. It might not be easy going forward for those guys."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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