Kellen Winslow spoke the truth on Sunday. For that he was suspended on Tuesday. And now it’s up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to do something about it.
On the surface, Winslow’s suspension seems like another case of the brash tight end running his mouth and the team giving him a one-game suspension for making comments Browns general manager Phil Savage said were “unwarranted, inappropriate, and unnecessarily disparaging to our organization.”
If you dig a little deeper, however, it’s a sad tale of a team willing to risk the reputation of one of its star players in order to protect its own image.
The comments in question came after the Browns lost to the Redskins, 14-11, on Sunday. Winslow finally announced the “undisclosed illness” that required him to be hospitalized for three days and then treated at home for another three -- a staph infection. Winslow said he was treated like a “piece of meat” after the team found out about his illness and that Savage didn’t call him once while he was being treated in the Cleveland Clinic. In fact, the only message he got from the front office was to keep his illness quiet.
You see, “staph infection” is about the most taboo two words you can utter at the Cleveland Browns’ training facility these days. Winslow’s case was the seventh known staph infection the team has had in the past four years, with “known” being the key word here seeing as how the Browns will go to any measure to keep the illness in-house. Browns center LeCharles Bentley’s career might be over because of a staph infection that he said was life-threatening. Receiver Joe Jurevicius will likely miss this season with a staph infection. Winslow’s infection is not even his first with the team. After surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee three years ago, he was hospitalized and lost almost 30 pounds after being infected.
"There's obviously a problem [with staph] and we have to fix it," Winslow said Sunday. "Just look at the history around here. It's unfortunate, because it happens time and time again."
While Winslow was in the hospital, he began hearing rumors that his “undisclosed illness” might be hydrocele or other less flattering illnesses such as testicular cancer. When Winslow asked the team if he could issue a statement about his condition to clear up the rumors, Winslow says they refused. He was told to, in no uncertain terms, keep his staph infection private.
As rumors about Winslow's health and well-being swirled, the Browns remained tight-lipped, saying that Winslow (not the Browns) wanted to keep his illness private.
Winslow said he was treated like a piece of meat when he finally announced to the media what his illness was and why it was kept under wraps by the team. That’s putting it lightly. At least most self-respecting companies wouldn’t hide what illness a piece of meat had.
The fact that Winslow was suspended a game for clearing up rumors surrounding his name and expressing concerns about a Browns organization that has seen player after player infected at their facility is a joke. Not only should Roger Goodell, who will no doubt be hearing from the Player’s Association, reverse the suspension, but he should fine the Browns for lying about a player's privacy wishes. Clearly Winslow wasn’t the only player they tried to prevent from speaking out about his staph infection, he was just the only one willing to talk about. And for that he should be commended, not suspended.