New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow (81) looks on from the sidelines against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan on August 9, 2013. The Lions defeated the Jets 27-19. (AP Photo/Scott Boehm)
When Jets tight end Kellen Winslow received a four-game suspension Friday from the National Football League for violating their policy on performance-enhancing substances, the general public mostly groaned and rolled their eyes. There wasn't that much outrage as attitudes seem to have softened regarding athletes who attempt to cheat the system.
In Winslow's defense, he claims to have accidentally and unknowingly taken a banned substance. Whether or not there was any intent behind the violation, our memories have gotten shorter toward players who use PEDs.
Look no further than the Major League Baseball postseason for a prime example of how forgiving fans can be when one of their own gets in trouble. Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers is currently batting .450 in the playoffs after returning from a 50-game suspension for violating the MLB drug policy. You would be hard-pressed to find very many people in Detroit who, despite Peralta's actions, don't want him in the lineup because he gives the team their best chance to win.
New Yorkers are no strangers to forgiveness, either. Marlon Byrd, suspended 50 games in 2012 for taking PEDs, was a fan favorite during his short tenure this season with the Mets before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates to help with their playoff push. Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte admitted taking HGH to help recover from an elbow injury in 2002 and received a hero's send-off when he retired in September.
The common denominator amongst Peralta, Byrd, and Pettitte is that they performed well upon returning from suspension. The trio has certainly heard the booing and taunting when they play on the road but they've largely been forgiven by the hometown crowd.
When Winslow is eligible to play again after November 4, he'll be welcomed back too -- as long as the team still needs him in the lineup. He'll have lost a bit of respect for his transgression, and will also miss out on $197,647 in paychecks, but he'll be back.
Despite already serving the first game of his suspension, Winslow still leads the Jets in touchdown catches and has the second most receptions. He's quietly been an important part of the offense and a favorite target of rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
His absence means it's time for others to step up. Jeff Cumberland had a season-high four receptions in Sunday's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and will have three more games to cement himself as a go-to option. Little-used tight end Konrad Reuland and recently signed Zach Sudfeld will also see an increase in playing time and it could mean the difference in them holding onto their roster spots.
Winslow has proven to be a shrewd signing after making the team following a training camp tryout. Hampered by knee problems that scared off most teams around the league, the time off via suspension could actually prove beneficial in keeping him fresh for the latter stages of the season.
At the end of the day, fans just want to see a winner. They may point their finger at Winslow and be disappointed in him, but if he comes back better than ever for the team's final seven games, all will be forgiven.