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Browns respond to criticism for failing to add lead physician in time for NFL Scouting Combine

By Nate Ulrich Published: March 17, 2014

The Browns have plenty of needs to address this offseason, but those holes are not limited to the roster.

The organization has yet to name a lead physician after ending its 38-year partnership with the Cleveland Clinic and forging a new relationship with University Hospitals that netted a sponsorship deal reportedly worth about $30 million over 10 years. The change in official health care partners was first reported in December by ESPNCleveland.com and formally announced by the Browns in January.

Dr. David Chao, who spent 17 seasons as the San Diego Chargers’ team physician before stepping down in June, criticized the Browns in a column he wrote for NationalFootballPost.com that was published today.

Chao acknowledged that the Browns had doctors at the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis. But he also noted that they did not have a lead physician or a complete medical staff in place for the combine. He wrote that the doctors sent by the team were not admitted to all combine-related functions.

“In my 19 years attending and working at the combine, I never encountered a situation where a club did not have lead team physicians in place,” Chao wrote.

Chao also wrote that experienced athletic trainers like Joe Sheehan of the Browns often compare notes with other teams’ medical staffs after the combine. Still, Chao questioned who is providing draft and free-agent medical advice for the Browns without a lead physician in place.

The Browns are not concerned about the criticism. They contend that they were well represented by doctors at the combine and collected all the medical information they typically obtain. University Hospital doctors have administered physicals for free agents.

“The Browns have several doctors already on board, most of whom were at the combine,” Browns director of communications Zak Gilbert said. “We’re in the process of finalizing the full medical staff and will announce that team once it’s in place.”

Dr. Mark Schickendantz was the Browns’ lead physician before the team severed ties with the Cleveland Clinic. The Browns won’t announce the addition of any members of their new medical staff until a decision regarding Schickendantz’s replacement is finalized.

Chao resigned from his job with the Chargers amid controversy after the NFL Players Association asserted that he failed to provide adequate care for players.

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