Mike Baab, the Cleveland Browns' starting center since 1983,...

By ROBERTO DIAS, UPI Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio -- Mike Baab, the Cleveland Browns' starting center since 1983, Monday was traded to the New England Patriots for an undisclosed draft pick.

Baab, 28, a 6-foot-4, 270-pounder, had started 62 consecutive games for Cleveland, excluding the three strike contests last year. The seven-year veteran beat out Pro Bowler Tom DeLeone in the 1983 training camp and his only missed start was that December at Denver.


Baab, who has recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery following an injury in January's AFC Championship loss at Denver, lost his starting role to second-year player Gregg Rakoczy, a second-round pick last year. The two had exchanged criticism in recent days.

After cleaning out his locker at the Browns' practice complex on the Baldwin-Wallace College campus, Baab shrugged off questions, loaded his equipment into his utility vehicle and departed.

'I'm not saying a thing,' he said. 'I'm going to New England.'

The Patriots Monday waived veteran center Pete Brock. Baab will compete with fourth-year player Trevor Matich.

Browns Coach Marty Schottenheimer gave his players off Monday and Tuesday 'to get this out of their system.'

'I don't think Mike would have been comfortable in a non-starting position,' Schottenheimer said. 'He has been an outstanding player for us and he will be missed.


'Gregg has performed very well for us. He has played consistently throughout the exhibition season.'

Before leaving, Baab spoke with offensive linemen Paul Farren and Cody Risien.

'I know the Patriots, and I think Mike will really help them. He would be able to help any team,' said Farren, the starting left tackle. 'He is a very good player.'

Rakoczy said he was 'elated' over being named the starter.

'But I've got to go out and earn the respect of my teammates, my peers,' he said. 'I have no hard feelings toward Mike Baab and what he said about me. I wanted to take his job and he wanted to defend his job.'

The Browns also waived eight players and placed three on injured reserve to cut their roster to 48, one above the regular-season limit. Another transaction will be announced Tuesday, and it is believed veteran linebacker Eddie Johnson may be traded. Cleveland only has seven offensive linemen remaining on the roster, one less than the minimum previously announced by Schottenheimer.

Waived were defensive end Al 'Bubba' Baker, wide receiver Al Bell, linebacker Steve Bullitt, running back Greg Grooms, defensive lineman Dave Puzzuoli, punter Dan Stryzinski, quarterback Steve Slayden and tight end Travis Tucker. Placed on injured reserve were kicker Jeff Jaeger, tackle Tony Jones and running back George Swarn.


Baker, an 11-year veteran who flopped as a pass rusher last season, was unimpressive in exhibition games. Puzzuoli, a popular six-year player, lost his backup role at nose tackle to Darryl Sims. Tucker's lack of pass-catching ability caused him to be beat out by Derek Tennell and Chris Dressel.

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