Art Donovan? A Cleveland Brown? It happened, in 1951.

Donovan spent that summer in the Browns' training camp. Why Cleveland? Baltimore was between franchises in the NFL, and when the old Colts folded after the 1950 season, Donovan needed a job.

He didn't make the team. The Browns, defending NFL champs, were rich in linemen. Donovan got hurt in practice. And then there was his relationship with coach Paul Brown.

"I don't think he liked me," Donovan says.

"I played three exhibition games, but never really got a chance. All their tackles were back; I was odd man out. I thought I was better than most, but they [Browns] didn't."

Worse, Donovan was badly injured in a scrimmage when a teammate accidentally stepped on his face. "I was trying to make a tackle, and here comes a shoe," he recalls. Fifty-eight stitches closed the wound, but during Donovan's recovery, the Browns tried to lose him.

Weeb Ewbank, then an assistant coach for Cleveland, urged Paul Brown to reconsider.

"You can't cut Donovan now," Ewbank said. "Wait until he gets well, and can fight for his position."

Ewbank remembers another reason for postponing Donovan's departure: "Arthur was cut up pretty badly. I couldn't send him home to his mother with a face like that."

In the end, the Browns peddled Donovan and another ex-Colt, Sisto Averno, to the New York Yanks, who became the Dallas Texans, who became the Baltimore Colts in 1953.

A year later, Donovan made All-Pro, en route to the Hall of Fame.

"The Browns did me a favor," he says. "That trade was the best thing that ever happened to me."

News of the Browns' move to Baltimore sent shock waves coursing through Donovan, who is in China, vacationing with his wife.

"What's with Art Modell? Is he starving in Cleveland? He's doing to them what [Bob] Irsay did to Baltimore," he says. "I never thought the NFL would come to this. The crack is in the dam, and it's not going to get any better.

"How are you going to start rooting for the Browns? They've got Vinny Testaverde; he'll take them to the championship -- in 2010.

"What happens to the Stallions? Are they moving to Harrisburg?

"This is hard to believe. Modell is going to charge people thousands of dollars so they can buy season tickets. I can't find a cheeseburger. And the beds here [in China] are half my size.

"I think everybody's gone nuts."

Ewbank as double agent