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6/12/2008 2:44 PM
OL LeCharles Bentley  (United States)
Passan: The Dream, Denied
A Fateful Day in 2006 (AP)
A Fateful Day in 2006 (AP)
OBR Columnist
Posted Jun 12, 2008

Rich ponders the ill-fated career arc of LeCharles Bentley as a Cleveland Brown

It’s a story that we may never know the full extent of. It’s a mystery shrouded in nothing but good will and no apparent hurt feelings.

LeCharles Bentley is no longer something he zealously wanted to be while growing up in Cleveland – a member of the Cleveland Browns.

Just like that, he’s gone.

Quite the contrary to when he signed that multi-million dollar contract in the early stages of 2006. Bentley was coming home. He spoke in terms that made every Browns fan proud to be a Browns fan.

Cleveland was where the two-time Pro Bowler wanted to be. And he made certain everyone knew that. This would be the culmination of a dream he had long clung to while starring in football at St. Ignatius High School and Ohio State University.

He couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as he spoke to the assembled media at the news conference that introduced the return to his hometown. He was so happy. Back home with family, playing for the team of his childhood. Not many athletes experience that feeling.

Browns fans welcomed him home with open arms. Glad to have you back, said many ardent fans who applauded the Browns’ effort to shore up the offensive line. Great to have you back where you belong. We look forward to a long and prosperous career.

Everyone was happy, giddy almost, that the Browns could pull off this kind of coup. Not one word of dissent.

In a moment of startling suddenness, the LeCharles Bentley story took one of the most puzzling and bewildering turns in Cleveland sports in a long time. One play into training camp in 2006, Bentley’s world – and the patellar tendon in his left knee – collapsed.

Post-op complications along the road to recovery spun him into a life-and-death situation and out of Browns plans. And for the next two years, neither side appeared on the same page regarding his status. Until now.

When the Browns granted Bentley’s request to be released Wednesday, it brought to an end one of the strangest and most bizarre chapters in Browns history.

No one figured it would end like this.

After nearly two years, trying to figure out why he hadn’t played for the Browns has been perplexing. Neither side was forthcoming regarding his status. The fans didn’t know what to think.

A nasty rumor has made the rounds lately that Bentley deceived the Browns by faking the injury. According to the rumor, he actually tore up the knee playing basketball shortly before the start of training camp two years ago and then pretended to blow out the knee on the first full-contact play of practice.

That would be hard to believe unless Bentley’s pain threshold is so ridiculously high, he could have withstood pre-workout stretching and running in spite of the injury.

It’s also possible – but not proven – the club found out that the rumor was true and decided to cover it up to save Bentley any embarrassment. There were some suspicions to why the Browns tore up the original contract and replaced it with a two-year deal.

For the better part of two years, Bentley rehabbed in an effort to fulfill his part of the contract. And for most of those two years, the Browns insisted he wasn’t ready to play. Even though he had passed physicals elsewhere, he failed to pass the Browns’ test.

Kind of makes one wonder.

Fans nevertheless continued to wish Bentley as speedy a recovery as possible. They understood the circumstances under which he labored and hoped for the best.

And when he finally did pass his physical recently, fans rejoiced. But not for long. The Browns would not guarantee him a starting spot on the offensive line. Nor should they have.

Phil Savage understandably couldn’t wait for him to rehabilitate to the point where he would be a productive member of the team. The offensive line needed to be repaired quickly and Bentley was not a fit in that timetable.

So Savage did what any good general manager would do and was able to cobble together one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League by drafting smartly and signing key free agents.

Now the healthy Bentley would have to come in and prove himself all over again. Not good enough.

Maybe it was pride. Perhaps he was dissatisfied with the manner in which the club handled this whole mess that factored into the decision to ask for his release. Cleveland no longer fit into his short-term plans.

Give Bentley credit, however, for taking the high road. “I’m still a fan,” he said as he departed. “I’m still a Cleveland guy and I’m glad to see the Browns do well. . . . I’m excited about that from a fan’s perspective. I’m always going to be a Cleveland Browns die-hard fan no matter what.”

Said Savage, “We wish him the best. . . . It just didn’t work out.” Empty words or words of relief that this little nightmare had closure?

Bentley didn’t want to be a spare part and that’s what he probably would have been with the Browns. Who could blame him? He believes he has recovered enough to become an asset to some team.

There’s one team about two hours southeast of Cleveland down the turnpike that could use a good offensive lineman. And another team about five hours southwest of Cleveland down I-71 that could use a good offensive lineman. Both play in the AFC North.

How ironic it would be if the Browns see Bentley at least twice a year for the next five or six seasons.


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6/12/2008 2:45 PM
Re: OL LeCharles Bentley  (United States)
Bye-Bye Bentley, Bye-Bye
Bentley at Tuesday's Practice
Bentley at Tuesday's Practice
OBR Publisher
Posted Jun 11, 2008

The ill-fated arc of the premier 2006 free agent signing was completed today in Berea, as the Browns announced to the media that LeCharles Bentley has been released by the team.

The Cleveland Browns announced this afternoon that they have released offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, less than 24 hours after welcoming the offensive lineman back to the field. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Bentley proclaimed in comments to the media that he planned to start somewhere in the NFL this season, statements which indicated a pretty significant disconnect between player and organization.

After this morning's practice, Bentley requested a meeting with the Browns brass, and talked with head coach Romeo Crennel and GM Phil Savage. Without giving any reasons for his request, Bentley asked for his release from the team. Savage told the media this afternoon that the Browns "felt compelled" to honor his request and allow the lineman to leave.

During a seven-minute meeting with the media, Savage did not elaborate as to why the Browns gave in so easily to Bentley's request. After two years of rehab, the lineman is now a free agent. 

While not explicitly discussed by the team today, Bentley's desire to play and start immediately clearly did not jive with the Browns cautious approach to dealing with the lineman. As had been reported numerous times on the Orange and Brown Report in past months, the Browns were taking a "wait-and-see" tack with the lineman, and hoped to see whether or not his knee would hold up when contact began. The OBR has been advising caution with respect to Bentley's potential, due to what we had learned from team sources, questions about Bentley's ability to take punishment, the team's concern about liability, and risk to the entire offensive line if the the team depended too much on Bentley's contributions.

The mismatch in expectations was bound to cause trouble, which arrived faster than expected.

Seemingly upset about the team's plans, Bentley missed a team meeting and practice this morning. Within several hours, internet reports were saying that Bentley had either retired or been released by the club.

Playing with the Browns was to be a happy hometown ending for Bentley, who had played high school ball at St. Ignatius and college football at Ohio State. After being drafted by the New Orleans Saints and excelling with them, Bentley was the prize signing of the 2006 free agent class.

Nothing went well after the heady few days where Bentley was proclaimed a building block for the franchise. On the first play of training camp in August 2006, Bentley tore a patellar tendon and was taken off the field. A staph infection - one of many suffered by Browns players - nearly resulted in the loss of the leg entirely.

The offensive lineman then chose to rehab away from the Browns facility, a decision which did not appear to put him in the good graces of the franchise. Despite the team's constant downplaying of Bentley's potential to return, it appeared that player and team had reached common ground on Tuesday as mini-camp began. Pushing aside several years of what appeared to be subtle conflict between the two, the team announced that had passed his physical and that he was approved to practice individual drills with the Browns.

A day later, Bentley was leaving the Berea training facility with his suitcase in his hand, headed off to an uncertain future.

OBR Football Analyst Lane Adkins contributed to this report.

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6/12/2008 2:46 PM
Re: OL LeCharles Bentley  (United States)

LeCharles Bentley to the Vikings?

In the off-season leading up to the 2006 NFL season, LeCharles Bentley was the hottest offensive lineman available in free agency.  Having shown the versatility to play both center and guard as a member of the New Orleans Saints, he was regarded as one of the better up-and-coming young linemen in the league.  Just hours after free agency started, Bentley was signed to a pretty hefty contract by the Cleveland Browns, where he was expected to be the anchor of a rebuilding offensive line.

Instead, he tore his patella tendon during his first practice as a member of the Browns.  The combination of that and a staph infection wiped his entire 2006 and 2007 seasons off of the books.  After he passed his physical the other day, the Browns cut Bentley after paying him $16.6 million to sit on injured reserve for two years.

Now, Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk is speculating. . .and I use that term very loosely. . .that Bentley could be brought in to Minnesota to compete for the starting center job and/or give the Vikings a reason to get rid of Matt Birk.

Boy howdy, where to begin with this.

As it stands right now, 12 June 2008, LeCharles Bentley couldn't carry Matt Birk's jock strap.  Hell, he might hurt himself just trying to pick it up prior to the actual carrying.  I know that Birk is in the last year of his contract and that things aren't entirely peachy between him and the front office at the moment, but going from Birk to Bentley would be a huge downgrade for the Vikings.  As far as providing depth, the Vikings have two promising young center prospects (2007 UDFA Dan Mozes and 2008 sixth-round pick John Sullivan) that could be groomed to take Birk's place should he depart Minnesota after this year, and Bentley doesn't strike me as the kind of guy that would willingly accept being a backup.

As far as the guard spots are concerned. . .well, let's safely assume that he's not stepping in at left guard.  And the Vikings' front office didn't give Anthony Herrera a five-year contract extension last season so that he could back up a guy that hasn't played a down since 2005.

The only way that this makes sense. . .and, seriously, I'm stretching harder than a Chinese acrobat to make this reach. . .is if the Vikings are truly afraid of disciplinary action against Bryant McKinnie and are entertaining the thought of kicking Birk out to LT until McKinnie returns, in which case a veteran center might sound appealing to them.  But, even then, it brings up the problem of what you do with Bentley after Birk returns.

I usually don't have any problems with Mike Florio.  But I honestly think he's way, way off base on this one.  (Which, with my track record, means that Bentley will be a Viking by this afternoon at the latest.)  Really, though, I don't see any scenario where the signing of LeCharles Bentley would be a beneficial one for Minnesota.


New Post
6/12/2008 2:46 PM
Re: OL LeCharles Bentley  (United States)

Browns release Bentley

Cleveland Browns center LeCharles Bentley has asked for, and received, his release from the team on Wednesday.

Regarded as the top free agent in the 2006 off-season, Bentley backed out of an unofficial agreement with the Philadelphia Eagles before signing with the Browns. In July of that year he tore the patella tendon in his knee, sidelining him for all of 2006, and suffered a staph infection that kept him out of the 2007 campaign. On Monday, Bentley was finally cleared to play, but soon after requested his release.

Bentley said before he left the Browns facility that he will probably return to Phoenix to continue training. He also said that he expects to be on an NFL roster in 2008 and expects to be a major contributor.

The Ohio State product started 57 games with New Orleans from 2002-2005, and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2003 and 2005.


New Post
6/12/2008 2:47 PM
Re: OL LeCharles Bentley  (United States)

Bentley’s release request granted by Browns

Thursday, June 12, 2008 | Posted by Neal Coolong

Browns oft-injured C LeCharles Bentley asked for a release, which was granted, Wednesday.

That same day, Bentley passed a physical; for the first time since he signed a six-year, $36 million contract in 2006, he completed a practice session. Bentley tore his left patellar tendon in his knee during his first practice with the Browns, and after multiple staph infections and surgeries, he says he's able to play and wants to start in 2006.

Commentary: The Browns are one of the teams to watch in the AFC this season, and they went from 4-12 to 10-6 while paying Bentley to rehab. Hank Fraley will snap the ball to QB Derek Anderson this season, and that seems to be fine for the Browns. Bentley, depending on how much money he'll ask for, will certainly get a contract sooner rather than later.

Fantasy Impact: None
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