By: TOM WITHERS
Posted 10/21/08 - Tight end Kellen Winslow has been suspended for one game without pay by the Cleveland Browns for critical comments he made following Sunday's loss at Washington.
Winslow, who spent three days at the Cleveland Clinic earlier this month with an undisclosed illness, revealed he had a staph infection. He also complained that the team, which has had at least six cases of staph in the past three years, asked him to hide his illness.
Winslow criticized general manager Phil Savage for not checking on him while he was in the hospital, said he felt like he was being treated like a "piece of meat," and revealed he considered requesting a trade.
In a lengthy statement released Tuesday, Savage called Winslow's comments and behavior "unwarranted, inappropriate, and unnecessarily disparaging to our organization.
"His statements brought unjustified negative attention to our organization, and violated the team-first concept of our football squad," Savage said.
Winslow will miss Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and it will cost him $235,294 - his one-game paycheck.
The Pro Bowler will not be allowed to practice or attend meetings at the team's facility this week and cannot return until Monday.
Winslow can appeal his suspension through the NFL Players' Association. His agent Drew Rosenhaus did not immediately return phone messages or an e-mail seeking comment.
Winslow's suspension culminates a two-week mystery that began with him being admitted to the hospital with an undisclosed illness.
The Browns, citing privacy laws and Winslow's wishes, declined to identify his medical condition. On Friday, Winslow said he agreed with the team's decision and argued that "just because I catch a football doesn't mean I should tell what's wrong with me or what happened."
However after Sunday's game, Winslow divulged he had staph - for the second time - and said he was coming forward to protect his teammates. Before talking to reporters, Winslow had spoken with Savage in a hallway outside the Browns' locker room in Landover, Md.
On Monday, coach Romeo Crennel said he was disappointed by Winslow's decision to take his problems to the media and said he would consult with Savage before levying any punishment.
Savage defended the Browns' handling of Winslow's hospital stay.
"The Cleveland Browns are committed to winning and taking care of our players," he said. "We are also committed to protecting the privacy of our players, particularly with regard to medical issues. 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."
The Browns have had six known cases of staph since 2005, and Savage said the team is doing all it can to protect the health of its players and personnel at the club's training facility in Berea and downtown stadium.
Savage said the players have been educated on the risks of staph, and that during training camp the entire team took part in an extensive presentation by infectious disease experts.
"Kellen was in attendance at that meeting," Savage said. "Since that meeting, not one player has approached me, Romeo Crennel, or our medical staff with concerns as to how we have dealt with this issue."
Winslow's suspension could further damage his already shaky relationship with Savage and the Browns.
He has been upset with the team for not giving him a contract extension. After catching 82 passes for 1,106 yards and five touchdowns last season and making the Pro Bowl, Winslow hired Rosenhaus, who used the week in Hawaii to make it known that he intended to get his client a new deal.
Winslow broke his right leg during his second game as a rookie and missed the remainder of the season. While he was recovering, he sustained life-threatening injuries when he crashed his motorcycle doing stunts in a parking lot. The Browns paid him more than $11 million for his first two seasons.
Winslow got a staph infection following surgery on his right knee, but before missing the Browns' Oct. 13 game against the New York Giants, he had made 36 straight starts.
He has a team-high 21 receptions for 187 yards this season.
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