It’s Like Riding a Bike

Fans around the NFL have been wondering about the play of Kellen Winslow, Jr. ever since he broke his leg in the second game of last season against the Dallas Cowboys.

Everyone has been wondering if, after two surgeries and rehabilitation, Winslow would have the same production as he did in his college days.

With little professional experience, and a horde of public relation problems stemming from his contract negotiations, anticipation was high this year for Kellen Winslow, Jr.

Would playing NFL football be like getting back on a bike for him?

Well, we may never find out, specifically because Senor Winslow got on the wrong kind of bike.

While test driving his new motorcycle in the parking lot of a Cleveland area community college, Winslow lost control of his vehicle, flipped over the handlebars, and plowed over a small tree.

Surely, Romeo Crennel and Cleveland fans hoped he would be plowing over defensive secondaries this year, not flattening defenseless shrubs.

Winslow suffered multiple ailments in his Jackass imitation, including damage to his surgically repaired right knee, a bruised shoulder, and other unspecified internal injuries.

Because there is allegedly special language in Winslow's contract that forbids him from engaging in any "dangerous" activities, and specifically riding motorcycles, the Browns may be able to recoup some of Winslow's signing bonus and salary for this season.

While it is nice that the Browns may be able to save a couple of a million dollars if Winslow is unable to play some games this season, the fact that he won't be on the field as an option for new quarterback Trent Dilfer might be a bigger setback than the money.

After dumping a host of Butch Davis' special draft picks, Crennel has been retooling the Browns' roster and filling needs that were desperately ignored for the last couple years. Trent Dilfer was signed at quarterback, Braylon Edwards was drafted in the first round, Ruben Droughns was acquired from Denver, and the offensive line was beefed up to prevent Dilfer from suffering the same fate as the oft-sacked Tim Couch.

A vital piece of this puzzle was to be Kellen Winslow starting at tight end.

Well, that was until Winslow decided to do some doughnuts on his new motorcycle.

While someone somewhere may have already set the odds for when the first Edwards/Winslow fist fight would be in minicamp, the two represented viable options for Dilfer. As a pair they would have drawn the ire and attention of opposing defenses, setting up the running game , and taking advantage of less athletic secondaries around the league.

This is by no means to say they would have been Pro-Bowlers and led the Browns to a winning season, but they would have been a large piece of the puzzle.

Woody Paige of ESPN commenting on Around the Horn on Tuesday said that it is unrealistic for teams to expect athletes to forego their personal lives and remain indoors every moment they are not on the field.

Unfortunately, I think it is a tad unreasonable for athletes that are given a small fortune from NFL teams to not follow the terms of their contract, especially when it specifically forbids the use of motorcycles. They owe it to themselves and their team to be ready and healthy to contribute when the season (or minicamp for that matter) starts.

Woody Paige also made a comment that insinuated since only 9% of traffic accidents involve motorcycles, the logical next step for teams would be for them to forbid players from driving cars.

While I must respect Mr. Paige because he is a paid employee of ESPN and because of that automatically makes more sense than I do, I wonder what kind of logic he was using when making that statement.

Sure, I believe that only 9% of accidents may involve motorcycles, but that vast majority of vehicles are cars, not motorcycles. Furthermore, motorcycles do not have airbags, seatbelts, roll cages, reinforced doors; nor do they weigh a couple tons and insulate passengers from the impact of other vehicles/objects.

I give some credit to Winslow because he was wearing a helmet, but I can only give him some credit because officers report that the helmet was not fastened while Winslow was driving.

However, a helmet is not going to protect his leg, his abdomen, or his shoulder. Getting into an accident on a motorcycle is intrinsically more likely to cause injury that getting into an accident in a car. You are not protected against anything.

I have nothing against motorcycles personally, nor do I believe them to be inherently dangerous, but I do think it is reasonable for teams to prohibit their highly-paid athletes from riding them, simply because the risk for career-threatening injuries is greater.

Athletes have the opportunity to make all the money in the world, and while they are on the payroll, and while their services are needed on the field, they should do everything in their power to avoid situations that raise the risk of injury.

They at least have the obligation to follow the terms of their contracts.

They have the rest of their lives to play with their toys.

Romeo Crennel came from a New England organization that was built on the idea of the team, of responsibility, and of clean, hard-nosed football. You have to wonder if the off-field antics of Winslow may cause his stay in Cleveland to be shortened, even if he does return to form from his current injuries.

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