- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio (AP) - Gary Barnidge had a legitimate excuse for missing the Browns’ charity golf outing.

Cleveland’s Pro Bowl tight end underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia in Philadelphia on Thursday, and it’s possible his recovery could cause him to miss the start of the team’s training camp in July.

Barnidge, who had a breakout season with career-highs in catches, yards and touchdowns in 2015, was not on the field for the Browns’ eighth and final practice session of organized team activities on Wednesday.

Coach Hue Jackson had called it an “excused absence.” But before teeing off with dozens of players and some noted Browns alumni, including Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, he revealed the 30-year-old Barnidge was having surgery.

Barnidge had been practicing with the injury before the team’s medical staff decided an operation was necessary. Jackson said Barnidge will miss next week’s three-day minicamp and his status for training camp is uncertain.

“I’m glad that we’re dealing with this now, so that we can get it behind us and get him back to where he needs to be,” Jackson said. “Knowing him, he’ll be chomping at the bit way before time, but we’ll slow him down and make sure he’s ready to go. But I don’t think there’s any concern he’s not going to be ready to go or anything like that. But it’s good to get these things behind us as fast as we can.”

Barnidge was arguably Cleveland’s best player last season, leading the team with 79 receptions for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns. He tied Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome’s single-season franchise record for TD catches and was rewarded in December with a three-year, $12.3 million contract extension.

Before the Browns hit the Westwood Country Club course, Jackson and owner Jimmy Haslam said the legendary Brown will have more interaction with Cleveland’s players.

“Jim and Hue have formed a good, close bond,” Haslam said. “Jim will be around much more and in a much more significant way helping our players be not just better players but better men.”

Jackson said he intends to use the 80-year-old Brown as a resource.

“He’s very bright. He gets it,” Jackson said. “He understands these young men. He understands truly how to deal with them, how to motivate them and how to push them. He’s been outstanding. I’ve had a lot of long conversations with him.”

Jackson is educating his team on Cleveland’s football history, which hasn’t been so rich in recent years. He has brought in several former players, including popular quarterback Bernie Kosar, to speak and attend practices. Jackson is linking the young Browns to their past while making former players, some of whom expressed a lack of connection with the organization in recent years, feel welcomed.

“They want to feel like they are still a part of it, and they are because they’re the men who laid the foundation for where we are today,” Jackson said. “They have the opportunity to give them very sound advice because they’ve been through it.”

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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