BROWNS TRAINING CAMP
Edwards' return gets big reception
Receiver arrives unfashionably early
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Mary Kay Cabot
Plain Dealer Reporter
Receiver Braylon Edwards sat down for his post-practice news conference Saturday wearing a new set of wristbands that proclaimed "I'M BACK."
Two days after center LeCharles Bentley's season-ending injury cast a pall over camp, Edwards rejuvenated the team by returning to practice earlier than anyone expected -- just shy of seven months after surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
His return -- although limited to offensive drills and no contact -- fueled hopes that he might be ready for the season opener against New Orleans on Sept. 10.
"I can't tell you that I'm guaranteed to play Sept. 10, but obviously it's looking good," Edwards said. "I went out there today and I had no pain in the knee, and I'm not afraid to cut, plant or run. I'm extremely excited about the possibilities of playing in the first game."
Edwards passed his physical Saturday and was activated in time for the evening practice session. He burst out the doors to the practice field like Superman emerging from a phone booth and was greeted by cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.
As the practice went on, Edwards played to the crowd, pumping his fists, pointing the ball to them after a catch and running past a line of them and slapping their hands.
"I'm just so excited," he said. "To be honest, I've never really felt like this, even getting drafted and the first game of the season last year and the first touchdown. This is like the happiest I've ever been."
Edwards, wearing a brace on his right knee, participated in receiver drills and offensive team work. The team was in shorts and shoulder pads, but he still was held out of work against the defense.
He caught everything that came his way, and displayed the ability to make sharp cuts and tough catches. Every move he made was cheered by fans, who chanted his name and woofed at him. A+ one point, when he told the fans he was out of breath, a man offered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. "I'll pass," Edwards said.
But he was loving every minute of it.
"To go out there today and slap hands with the fans and run where I'm supposed to be, and catch passes and do those things and get the ovation, it really was something out there today."
Edwards' return also gave fans their first glimpse of him and fellow top pick Kellen Winslow Jr. on the field together. Even though it was only offense, they still made a formidable duo, with Winslow lining up all over the place.
"He and I talk every day about where we want to take this organization," Edwards said. "I think he and I are going to make some magic this year and for years to come."
Edwards suffered his knee injury on Dec. 4 against Jacksonville and had surgery Jan. 3. Originally, he was on a nine-month timetable, which would have put him back around Oct. 1.
Coach Romeo Crennel said he'll work Edwards in gradually.
"If I wasn't playing by [October], I would be shocked, but that's just how I think," Edwards said.
"You've got to put the [rehabilitation] time in," he said. "But I'm still young and I think being young helps a lot. Plus, I think my body is just a little different than some people's. I think I have just a little bit extra."
Edwards heaped praise upon team physician Dr. Anthony Miniaci and trainer Marty Lauzon.
"Those guys did a heck of job," he said. "I'm not supposed to be where I am, but I am. I had the surgery on Jan. 3rd and we got it rolling on the fourth of January. It was just non-stop preparation. I came in every day, sometimes twice a day."
He said the key was they didn't force things.
"Some people are not supposed to run for 4½ or five months, but the knee was cool at three," he said. "We're going to come back when we're ready, and when I come back please believe I'm never going back in the training room."
He said the injury has made him a more determined player.
"I'm not happy I got hurt, but I'm happy with . . . what it taught me," he said.
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