Former Browns center Bentley sues team over staph infection

CLEVELAND -- Former Cleveland Browns center LeCharles Bentley has filed a lawsuit against the team over a career-ending staph infection he says he contracted at the team's facility.

Bentley's attorney, Shannon Polk, said that the lawsuit filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court is seeking at least $25,000 in damages.

Bentley tore the patella tendon in his left knee on the first team drill of the Browns' 2006 training camp. He had multiple surgeries and never played a game for the Browns, although he returned to compete in the team's minicamp in 2008 before asking for his release.

In 2007, Bentley told The Associated Press that he had undergone four operations since getting hurt, the final two to clean out the staph infection, which ate away at his tendon. The virus became so severe that doctors considered amputating his leg.

"At one point, I was so sick they weren't sure I was going to live through the night," Bentley told the AP.

The lawsuit said the Browns' training facility in suburban Berea has been portrayed to players and player prospects "as a world-class facility at which 'state-of-the-art' physical training, medical care and treatment and other rehabilitative services are provided."

But the lawsuit said Bentley's repaired knee became swollen and he was diagnosed with staph infection within weeks of beginning rehabilitation at the facility on July 31, 2006. The result, the lawsuit said, was multiple surgeries to root out Bentley's staph infection "and he nearly lost his life."

The lawsuit said Bentley developed staph because he relied on the team's representations about a hygienic training facility and because the Browns failed to sanitize equipment.

"The Browns convinced LeCharles to rehab at their facility," Polk said Thursday. "Nothing required him to do it. That wasn't part of his job. They told him their facility was the best and that they had successfully helped others. But they never told him about a host of unsanitary conditions there, and they never told him about the list of others who contracted staph before he chose to rehab there."

"Had the Browns disclosed that stuff to him, had they been straight with him, he would have never agreed to rehab at their training facility," she continued. "The man nearly died from the staph infection he got there."

According to WJW-TV, Neal Gulkis, Browns vice president of media relations, said the team would not comment "at this time."

Several Browns developed staph infections during their time with the team, including defensive back Brian Russell, linebacker Ben Taylor, wide receiver Braylon Edwards and receiver Joe Jurevicius, who settled a similar lawsuit against the team and the Cleveland Clinic in June. None of them are currently with the Browns.

The Browns' alarming rise in staph cases spurred the club to request assistance from the Cleveland Clinic, its health care provider and a sponsor. The Clinic twice sent a team to examine the team's headquarters and indoor practice field house in Berea.

The Clinic concluded the team was following proper procedure and CDC recommendations to prevent staph and that the five cases involving players were unrelated.

Former Browns tight end Kellen Winslow developed an infection following knee surgery after a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2005. Winslow's infection, which was kept under wraps by both Winslow and the Browns, led to an acrimonious departure from the team, who traded him to the Buccaneers prior to the 2009 season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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