Crennel says Winslow’s comments a ‘distraction’

Published 12:35 am Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Calling Kellen Winslow’s critical comments a distraction, Browns coach Romeo Crennel confirmed the tight end was hospitalized for a staph infection and said he may discipline the emotional Pro Bowler for his conduct following Sunday’s loss to the Washington Redskins.

Winslow spent three nights at the Cleveland Clinic for an illness that he did not disclose until Sunday. He said he didn’t reveal that he had staph because the team, which has had an alarming number of staph cases in recent years, ‘‘didn’t want it to get out.’’ Winslow said he came forward to protect his teammates.

Crennel, though, felt Winslow’s postgame remarks were inappropriate.

Email newsletter signup

‘‘It’s a distraction for the organization and for Kellen,’’ Crennel said at his Monday news conference. ‘‘He should’ve come to the organization first if he had a problem.’’

The Browns, who initially cited privacy laws and Winslow’s wishes for keeping his illness a secret, have had at least six known cases of staph — a bacterial infection that can cause different types of illnesses — since 2005. Winslow got staph following knee surgery after a near-fatal motorcycle accident in ’05. Wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius, as well as center LeCharles Bentley and safety Brian Russell, all contracted staph.

Winslow, who as recently as Friday said he didn’t want his illness known, also criticized the Browns’ handling of his situation and complained that general manager Phil Savage didn’t check on him while he was in the hospital or wish him well when he returned.

In addition, Winslow said the Browns treat him ‘‘like a piece of meat’’ and that he considered asking Savage to trade him.

Crennel said he was disappointed by Winslow’s decision to make his views public.

‘‘Sometimes the emotions of the game and the emotions of your personal situation kind of overflow,’’ Crennel said. ‘‘He probably said some things that he didn’t need to talk about to the media. He should come to the organization and talk to the organization first and try to reach some kind of agreement.’’

Crennel has spoken with Winslow about his comments. The coach plans to consult with Savage and others before deciding whether to punish the 25-year-old Winslow, who sat out the Oct. 13 upset win over the New York Giants and caught only two passes for 17 yards in Sunday’s loss at Washington.

‘‘We’ll investigate it and determine if anything needs to be done,’’ Crennel said. ‘‘My policy is to keep family business in the family. So whatever I do, I do and I’m not going to broadcast it.’’

Crennel was asked if Winslow showed any remorse about his actions.

‘‘I didn’t give him an opportunity to apologize,’’ Crennel said.

Savage did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Winslow declined a chance to speak with reporters on Monday. He walked into the Browns’ locker room, slipped on a hooded sweat shirt and left without comment.

Winslow’s assertion that the Browns wanted to keep his illness undisclosed conflicts with the team’s stance that it was abiding by the player’s preference to conceal his medical privacy. On Friday, Winslow was adamant about keeping his illness a secret, saying ‘‘because I play professional football and can catch a football, it doesn’t mean I should let people into my personal business.’’

But Winslow did just that after Sunday’s loss, saying the Browns still have a problem with staph ‘‘and we have to fix it.’’

Crennel said the club has not had a recurrence of staph cases, and that the Browns have been proactive in combating the infection by having their training facility regularly cleaned and inspected by a company specializing in infectious control. Players have been educated on the risks of infections and how to prevent them.

‘‘No one has come to me and said he felt like there was a problem or felt like we needed to do more or we weren’t doing enough,’’ Crennel said, ‘‘and it seems like maybe someone would have come and at least whispered in my ear that we have an issue or something like that. No one has done that.’’

Cleveland’s staph cases have little in common, Crennel said, which is why it’s so difficult to pinpoint their origin.

‘‘There are different types of staph, all the situations have been different,’’ he said. ‘‘Some of them have been pre-op, some have been post-op, some of them have been after the guy’s left the hospital and gone home. We don’t know where they are picking it up or where it comes from. If we knew that, we could pinpoint it and be able to address it.’’

It’s not known where Winslow got staph this time. But despite his concerns of a widespread problem at Cleveland’s training complex, linebacker Andra Davis said he’s not overly concerned about getting sick and that the team has taken adequate precautions to ensure the player’s protection.

‘‘Our equipment guys and our training room guys do everything to make sure we’re comfortable,’’ he said. ‘‘We have our own rags, our own towels, our own everything. It’s not scary.’’

One of Cleveland’s team captains, Davis said he wasn’t bothered by Winslow’s claims or their timing.

‘‘To each his own,’’ Davis said. ‘‘Kellen’s our teammate, we’ll never turn our back on him. We’ll definitely support him 100 percent.’’

Tight end Darnell Dinkins, the Browns’ player representative, said Winslow’s latest bout with staph has some players concerned.

‘‘Anybody who has staph, you’re talking about your life,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s bigger than football. it’s bigger than a game. Kellen is a good friend of mine. Anyone who has a condition or issue like that, you want to make sure he’s protected and he’s healthy. I’m glad he’s healthy and I hope we can contain it.’’

Crennel dismissed Winslow’s ‘‘piece of meat’’ comment and contention that he felt unwanted as frustration.

‘‘In the emotion of the moment sometimes things get said that are not exactly right and not exactly accurate and I think you have to take it with a grain of salt,’’ he said. ‘‘That doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel that way.’’