Bentley, Browns settle lawsuit

LeCharles Bentley has settled his lawsuit against the Cleveland Browns, the former NFL offensive lineman said Monday night.

Details of the settlement are confidential, but after months of contentious fights that went all the way to the US Supreme Court, Bentley and soon-to-be former Browns owner Randy Lerner worked out an agreement on their own.

“These last six years have been the most trying time of my life, but now that it is over I can honestly say I am a better man for having gone through it,” Bentley said in a statement Monday night. “Randy Lerner and I — two men born and raised in Cleveland — were able to sit down face to face back in June and come to an agreement that was fair.”

Bentley had sued the Browns, charging he got a staph infection at the team’s facility while rehabilitating from 2006 knee surgery. He released the statement to provide information when asked about the settlement.

The only part of the agreement that was announced is a scholarship program at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland. Lerner agreed to Bentley’s request that the Browns fund six scholarships for underprivileged children at Bentley’s alma mater. The scholarship program will continue for 20 years.

“One hundred and twenty young men will be blessed with a scholarship to attend one of the most academically and athletically rigorous schools in the country,” Bentley said. “(To) a school that not only provides a great education but also molds boys into responsible men. This is another example of the good things the Lerner family does for this city that nobody ever hears about.”

Bentley has been funding three scholarships for underprivileged kids to St. Ignatius on his own. Those have been given in the name of his mother, Verneda Bentley.

Bentley’s ordeal started on the first day of training camp in 2006, after he had signed a free-agent deal to return home to play for the Browns.

On the first play of team drills, he tore a patellar tendon. That led to surgery, which led to staph, which almost led to the loss of his leg. The lawsuit charged he almost lost his life.

The infection did cut short a Pro Bowl career. The Ohio State product was selected to the Pro Bowl twice in his career with the New Orleans Saints (2002-05).

The Browns had previously settled a similar suit brought by receiver Joe Jurevicius but decided to challenge Bentley’s.

The team appealed, stating the case should be heard by an NFL arbitrator and not in Cuyahoga County courts. An Ohio appeals court ruled the suit was not part of the collective bargaining agreement and could continue. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed. The Browns took the case to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it in April.

The case was proceeding with discovery when Lerner became more involved. He and Bentley decided to sit down and work things out.

“I’ve appreciated Randy’s friendship and honesty throughout this process,” Bentley said.

He now will focus his efforts full time on his O-Line Academy in Avon, a place where he trains college and professional linemen. His clients include Jason Pinkston, Shawn Lauvao and O’Neill Cousins of the Browns, and San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone of Cleveland. Bentley also did special individual work with Browns running back Montario Hardesty.