BEREA, Ohio -- Joe the Football Player isn't ready to give up the game he loves.
Cleveland wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, forced to sit out the 2008 season because of a serious staph infection in his surgically repaired right knee, plans to come back next season for his beloved Browns.
"I'm not giving up," he said. "I'm playing next year. It's not, I'm going to try. I am playing next year."
The passionate 33-year-old, who grew up in the Cleveland area and attended Browns games as a kid, Jurevicius revealed Monday that he has undergone five procedures in the past 10 months to clean out staph, which he contracted following arthroscopic surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in January.
Jurevicius is one of five known Browns players to get staph in the past three years, an outbreak that led to the team calling in infectious control specialists for assistance. Kellen Winslow recently had a second bout with staph, and the tight end was briefly suspended by the team for criticizing its handling of his hospitalization.
Jurevicius plans to have another operation on his knee to remove scar tissue. But instead of going back to the Clinic, he'll have his next procedure performed by Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo. Jurevicius doubts that he'll need microfracture surgery, an operation that involves drilling holes in the kneecap to promote cartilage growth and requires a longer rehab period.
Jurevicius said he contracted staph within 1½ weeks of his surgery. He isn't sure where he got it.
"I'm not a doctor," he said. "I'm not here to point fingers, whether it was the Cleveland Clinic or the Browns' facility. All I know is that I contracted a staph infection and wasn't happy with it. It is what it is. I battled, still have some work to do and we go from there, but now is not the time for me to point fingers."
"There's been some numbers here and it does make people open their eyes," he said. "I just feel that for me personally, I've seen enough of the Cleveland Clinic in terms of the amount of times I've been in there. For me, I would personally just like to start with a clean slate, a fresh chalkboard and write the rest of the story up. That's the reason I plan on going out to Vail. But I will be back here after that. But in terms of the number of staph infections, it makes you open your eyes."
Jurevicius, who also played for the New York Giants, Tampa Bay and Seattle, signed as a free agent with the Browns in 2005. It was his dream to end his career in Cleveland, and he's determined to see it through. Sitting out has been difficult for Jurevicius, who has found driving to Browns games extremely difficult.
As he passes fans tailgaiting -- some of them wearing his No. 84 jersey -- before games, Jurevicius remembers Sundays spent with family and friends.
"I take the long way to the stadium every game because my memories are of the Muni Parking Lot," he said. "When you see No. 84s out there, when you see the smoke from the barbecues, or people fighting, that's what I miss. It tears me up inside."
His teammates were not surprised to hear that Jurevicius is planning a comeback.
"He's a pro's pro and truly a leader on this team," kicker Phil Dawson said. "You can take a poll of this locker room and every last person would tell you that they respect Joe Jurevicius. I appreciate the fact that the guy wants to come back and play with us. He's a hometown guy and we can all learn a lesson from his passion and his commitment. I'll be really excited when he gets back in that helmet."
Jurevicius wants to leave the NFL on his own terms, not because of an infection he was powerless to stop. When he's done, he hopes to walk off the field at Browns Stadium in his uniform and wearing his orange helmet with daughters Caroline and Ava under each arm.
"I don't want them to see me give me up," he said. "I could take the easy way out and say I'm done. I'm going to take the tough road and I'm not done.
"I'm going to play."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press