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YEAR LATER, STAR CENTER TO RETURN TO BROWNS

Browns center LeCharles Bentley on Monday was cleared by his surgeon to practice, a major step in his comeback from a career-threatening knee injury.

After signing a six-year, $36-million deal in March 2006, Bentley's season ended on the first play of contact in training camp when he tore the patellar tendon in his left knee.

Later, a staph infection developed and became so severe that Bentley, 27, said it nearly killed him, and doctors considered amputation.

Bentley, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, had four surgeries, the final three to repair damage caused by the staph infection and led to two long hospital stays. He was scheduled for a fifth, but his surgeon decided against it because of how much progress Bentley had made.

The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder plans to be in Cleveland on Thursday for the first day of camp. He likely will have to pass a physical before the Browns allow him on the field.

"That really doesn't matter to me," Bentley said. "The top doctor in the field has told me that I'm okay. I've just got to keep making progress. The last person to go into my knee says I'm okay, and that's good enough for me."

Steelers star safety signs big extension

LATROBE, Pa. - Steelers star safety Troy Polamalu signed a four-year extension through 2011 worth $30.19-million, making him the highest-paid player in team history.

"I didn't want to be a player who is jumping from team to team," said Polamalu, an All-Pro in 2005 and Pro Bowl pick the past three seasons. "I've always felt comfortable here. I think this organization, this tradition they have here, is very legendary. And I always wanted to be part of this."

The Steelers' previous highest-paid player was receiver Hines Ward, who in 2005 signed a four-year extension worth $25.8-million with $10-million guaranteed.

COWBOYS: After having said he would not do so, owner and general manager Jerry Jones will meet with disgruntled outside linebacker Greg Ellis. Last season, Ellis was second on the team with 4-1/2 sacks before tearing his left Achilles' tendon. In April, Ellis became upset when Dallas used a first-round pick on defensive end Anthony Spencer, who will move to Ellis' position. Soon after, Ellis requested a restructured contract, his release or a trade.

DOLPHINS: Second-round pick John Beck signed. The first quarterback selected by Miami in the first two rounds since Dan Marino in 1983 threw for 79 touchdowns and 11,021 yards at BYU.

FALCONS: Cornerback Jimmy Williams faces a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. Police in Virginia arrested Williams on June 2, but two TV stations, in Richmond, Va., and Atlanta, first reported it Monday. An initial court appearance scheduled for July 16 was postponed until Dec. 3. As a rookie last season, Williams had 24 tackles in 13 games.

JETS: Receiver Tim Dwight and linebacker Matt Chatham went on the physically-unable-to-perform list. If not activated for the regular-season opener, they must sit out six games. Last season, Dwight caught 16 passes for 112 yards and averaged 10.4 yards on punt returns. Chatham had 34 tackles, 15 on special teams.

EX-LINEMAN ARRESTED: Chad Eaton, a defensive tackle for the Patriots, Seahawks and Cowboys, was arrested in an investigation of domestic violence. Eaton, 35, who played eight seasons and retired after the 2004 season, was arrested in Monroe, Wash., on Saturday and released Sunday on $2,500 bail. Details of the incident were not disclosed. Last year, Eaton's wife, Tina, was arrested after a fight left him with a bloody nose. But charges were not filed because he didn't want them pursued.

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