Tight end Kellen Winslow was a bit of an afterthought throughout the National Football League this offseason. Released in 2012 by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of training camp after refusing a pay cut, and then asking for his release from the New England Patriots, he appeared in just one game last season.
Winslow claims he left New England due to playing time, competing with star tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, while others speculated it was due to chronic knee pain.
"You can't come in Week 3, with those guys, and think you're going to get in," he told ESPN New York this past August. "It wasn't worth me being there in that situation because I know what I can do."
The New York Jets, with a need at the position following the loss of Dustin Keller to the Miami Dolphins via free agency, signed Winslow to a one-year deal after a minicamp tryout in June.
Despite a motorcycle accident in 2005, multiple knee surgeries, and two staph infections, the veteran tight end has continued to produce throughout his nine-year career. Winslow’s knee appeared to be okay in his first game with New York; scoring a touchdown while leading the team with 79 receiving yards on seven catches during Week 1.
“I remember Kellen back when he was just coming out in the Cleveland days and having to go against him,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan reminisced during his Tuesday news conference. “I had some of those nightmares. As soon as the name pops out, you’re intrigued. But then when you get here you realize, “Hey, this guy still has great receiving skills.” He’s smart, he’s a warrior, to quote himself. That’s kind of his mentality. There’s no question. Is he as good as he once was? Maybe not, but he’s pretty darn good.”
An All-American and John Mackey Award winner, given to nation's best collegiate tight end, during his playing days at the University of Miami; an older and wiser Winslow has learned to play with his physical limitations.
"You just get smarter, do smarter things for your body," Winslow told USA Today. "Live in the ice tub, take care of your legs and be OK."
The Jets plan to limit the nine-year pro in practice, following a similar blueprint to what they did with former safety LaRon Landry a season ago.
“We’ll lean on our trainers as far as the amount of physical work that he does,” stated Ryan.
A healthy Kellen Winslow is vital for a team with limited weapons on offense. Most notably, he provides a reliable target for rookie quarterback Geno Smith. As the Jets continue to take steps forward, much will depend on the health of Winslow’s surgically repaired knee.