Jim Brown Backs Troubled Cleveland Player

By Rick Sarlat
Updated: June 2, 2005

Kellen Winslow, Jr.

Kellen Winslow, Jr.

In a panel discussion on Direct TV’s NFL Network, Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown came to the vigorous defense of troubled Cleveland Browns Tight End Kellen Winslow Jr., who put his already uncertain NFL future in further doubt after a May 1 motorcycle accident.

“If you know Kellen [Jr.] there’s nothing insincere about him,” said Brown, now part of the Cleveland Brown’s front office working in player development. “He is straight down the middle, a standup guy. He is remorseful [about the accident] and I think in the statement he made, what you got was a total presentation of what was on his mind.”

Winslow, 21, tore the ACL in his right knee and suffered unspecified internal injuries in the accident, putting a premature end to his season for the second year in a row. He broke his right leg in the second week of his rookie season last year against Dallas and missed the team’s last 14 games. He was said to still be recovering from that injury at the time of the accident.

Also on the panel was NFL Analyst and former All-Pro Tackle Lincoln Kennedy, who has been one of Winslow’s harshest critics .

“After seeing something that seems rather selfish, getting on a motorcycle and ending his season for the year it’s looked at by a number of people, including myself as not being responsible to yourself or your team,” He said. “This young man since he’s come out of college has been surrounded by people who built him up to be in his father’s image and he’s not been on the field in a sense where he’s done that.” Carolina Panthers Defensive End Brentson Buckner, a guest panelist on the show, shared Kennedy’s view on Winslow, calling him a “cartoon character” that’s trying to live up to an impossible image when he’s barely even touched the field.

“My whole thing with Kellen Winslow–he’s a great athlete, I love him, but I think he’s building this character,” he said. “He’s almost become a cartoon character who’s trying to live up to this image.”

“I’m not judging,” Buckner continued. “This guy hasn’t even scored a touchdown and he’s doing all this ‘I’m it.’ I’m not saying he’s not a great football player, but [the attitude should come] after you’ve done something in the league.”

Brown countered in Johnnie Cochran-like fashion, saying that the league is full of “buffoonery” and Kennedy was part of it himself in his playing days.

“…you are in a generation of basically cartoon characters,” he snapped. “I saw you dancing on the football field yourself, Lincoln, after you did something . A 300-pound man shaking his butt. What’s dignified about shaking your butt? What’s dignified about pointing to yourself after scoring a touchdown?…I see a whole bunch of buffoonery going on [in the league] so you got make sure your house is clean before you start talking about someone else’s.”

In a statement that appeared on a Cleveland Brown’s website, Winslow issued this apology:

“To those members of the Cleveland Brown’s family who I have disappointed by my decision to ride a motorcycle, I humbly apologize,” Winslow said a statement issued on a Cleveland Brown’s website. In hindsight it was unwise to attempt to ride a motorcycle without a professional instructor in a controlled environment.”

“While many of you are disappointed that I will not be on the field with my teammates for this upcoming season, no one is more disappointed in this fact than me.”

Winslow’s apology only fueled the ire of critics who contend it needed to be more personal and in front of the cameras, particularly in the face of already having missed the better part of his rookie campaign.

Buckner agreed.

“If you’ve got a written statement, get in front of the cameras,” Buckner said. “Don’t release it on a website. Stand in front of the camera because people are more receptive when they see you.”

According to reports, Winslow has been working out at the Brown’s training facility, learning the new playbook and system being implemented by new coach-elect Romeo Crennel.

Because of a clause in his contract that prohibits dangerous activities, the Browns have the power to reclaim a portion of $5 million in signing bonuses Winslow was awarded after signing a six-year $40 million contract last year.

The son of Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow Sr., Winslow Jr. was heralded as a gifted athlete coming out of the University of Miami, with the potential to redefine the tight end position. His biggest criticism has been an inability to control his temper. In 2003, the All-American’s expletive-laced diatribe following a 10-6 loss to Tennessee made national headlines. Winslow accused Southeastern Conference officials of targeting him. He was penalized several times in the game for taunting, including a costly 15-yeard penalty late in the fourth quarter for taking his helmet off following a key 22-yard reception. Winslow was also flagged for standing over an opponent after a hard-hitting block that knocked the player out of the game.

“I hate refs,” Winslow angrily told reporters in the locker room after the game. “I can’t even get my crowd hyped up after a game. It’s a war. They’re out there to kill you, so I’m out there to kill them. We don’t care about anybody but this U. They’re going after my legs, I’m going to come right back at them. I’m a f***ng soldier.”

After reportedly knocking a Cleveland teammate to the ground in what supposed to be a noncontact drill, Winslow remarked that the team needed to develop more attitude and play with greater intensity.

He was Cleveland’s first round pick in the 2004 draft and the sixth player chosen overall.