Baxter signs one-year deal, vows to return from knee injuries

CLEVELAND -- Browns defensive back Gary Baxter, determined to become the first NFL player to make it back from two torn patellar tendons, signed a one-year free agent contract with Cleveland on Thursday.

Baxter's amazing comeback fell a little short last season. He defied doctors predictions that his career was over by returning to the practice field in July. However, he never got back the strength in his knees, which he injured freakishly while defending a pass against Denver in 2006.

The Browns finally placed him on injured reserve on Oct. 23, one day before the one-year anniversary of his knee operations and also the same date in which he underwent surgery to repair a torn chest muscle in 2005, an injury that sidelined him for 11 games.

Baxter has played in just eight games with the Browns, who signed him to a six-year, $30 million free agent deal in March 2005. The club restructured his contract last year, which made him a free agent at the end of the 2007 season.

"This is very important for me to sign a one-year deal here and to finish something I started," Baxter, 29, said. "This has been a long process but right now everything is going well and I'm going to continue my quest to make history."

Baxter has always played cornerback but has lost speed because of the injury and knows the only way he'll play again is as a safety.

Browns' offseason moves:
Players retained:
» QB Derek Anderson
» OL Lennie Friedman

» RB Jamal Lewis

» S Nick Sorensen

New players acquired:
» OG Rex Hadnot

» DT Shaun Rogers
» WR Donte' Stallworth

» DT Corey Williams
» DB Gary Baxter

"Both (general manager) Phil Savage and (coach) Romeo Crennel brought me back and that shows a lot of loyalty and respect on the Browns' behalf," Baxter said. "They know how hard I've been working. I'm running and feeling good. I'm putting in everything I've got. Things are looking very positive."

Savage worked with Baxter when both were with the Baltimore Ravens and knows the former second-round pick will do all he can to play again.

"Gary has shown great determination in his attempt to come back and we feel this contract will give him the opportunity to do just that here in Cleveland," Savage said. "We look forward to having him at close to 100 percent by training camp."

The Browns also signed fullback Charles Ali. The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder earned a roster spot last season as an undrafted rookie free agent. He played in 13 games on special teams.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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