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By Tom Withers | Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar believes he has been unfairly sacked as a TV broadcaster.
Kosar has been removed as a color commentator for Cleveland's preseason games by the team. The Browns said Wednesday night he was being replaced by Solomon Wilcots, who will work with play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan.
Kosar contends he's been removed because of slurred speech he attributes to "a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL."
"This is very unfortunate," he said in a statement, "as I believe my football acumen and ability to describe what is happening on the field, has been well received by Cleveland Browns fans."
WKYC-TV issued a statement disputing Kosar's assertions.
"Nowhere in our discussions with Bernie or the Browns has anything ever been said about his speech impairment due to concussions," said Brooke Spectorsky, the station's president and general manager. "That has simply nothing to do with our decision. The Browns are rebuilding their team, and in reviewing our programming we've decided to rebuild as well."
The 50-year-old Kosar estimates he has had more than a dozen documented concussions. He has been in pain for more than a decade, but said last year he found some relief through treatments at a wellness facility in Florida.
In announcing their decision, the Browns said they were in discussions with Kosar about "potential new roles" on pregame telecasts and on the team's website.
"We want Browns fans to look forward to seeing and hearing his continued contributions and analysis," team president Alec Scheiner said.
Kosar played for Cleveland from 1985-92 and retired in 1996. The gangly quarterback from Boardman, Ohio, led Cleveland to three AFC title games. He remains one of Cleveland's most beloved sports figures.
"I love to put the personal touch, pride in the Browns, and pride in our Cleveland community into the broadcast," he said. "Being able to share these preseason games with my fellow Cleveland Browns fans is truly one of the remaining joys in my life.
"I would hope that WKYC would reconsider utilizing my in-game talents and overlook my concussion-induced impairment. I want everyone to know that I still bleed Brown and Orange."
Spectorsky said Kosar could have a "presence with our broadcast team," possibly during the pregame show.
"The goal both for the Browns and for Channel 3 is for Bernie to have a bigger role in all of the new Browns programming that's being done, meaning TV, radio, and online," he said. "It can be a much more valuable role and will enable him to stay involved for a larger part of the season."
Last summer, Kosar drew criticism for in-game comments about former St. Louis third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens, the Rams' receivers and assistant coach Ray Sherman.
St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said about Kosar: "I lost a lot of respect for him. It's highly unlikely he knew anything about our football team, but felt the need to make those comments. I don't think they were justified."
The Browns apologized to the Rams and reprimanded Kosar.
Last October, Kosar, who has had other personal problems, was arrested in Solon, Ohio, on drunken driving charges. The police report said he refused to take a field sobriety test. Kosar told an officer he couldn't do so because he has had several operations on his knees and ankles.
According to the report, Kosar gave the officer two credit cards when asked to show his driver's license. Kosar had slurred speech and difficulty speaking.