TE Kellen Winslow can't wait for the Bucs' offseason program to begin
Kellen Winslow had a superb career at the University of Miami in the early 2000s, prolific (119 catches in two years) and eye-opening enough to land him at the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Winslow had an incredibly productive two-year stint at his first NFL home, Cleveland, as well, with 89 catches in 2006 and another 82 in 2007. He has been, on a per-game basis, a bit more prolific than tight end standard-bearers Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, though his five years in Cleveland were marred at the beginning and end by injuries.
So now, as he gets a new start in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — through a Friday trade that he called "a blessing," Winslow once again has a blank slate on which his stats may be writ large.
So what does he hope to accomplish as a Buccaneer? A 100-catch season? Another Pro Bowl berth? Recognition among the league's elite at his opinion.
For Winslow, it's simpler than that. He simply wants to work hard and get better.
"I am looking forward to bettering myself to be a complete player," he said upon arriving in Tampa on Friday. "I have a lot of work to do — blocking, pass catching, learning the offense. I have a lot of work to do."
Perhaps its easy to see a constant need for improvement in one's game when you are not yet even the most accomplished tight end in your own family. Winslow's father, of course, was the first famous Kellen Winslow, a prolific receiving tight end when they weren't quite as plentiful in the league. The elder Winslow is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after amassing 541 receptions for 6,741 yards and 45 touchdowns in just nine seasons.
To Winslow's way of thinking, one never completely reaches one's potential. That gap between what you are and what you believe you can be constantly pushes you to strive for more. His desire to become a better player has often manifested itself in an on-field demeanor described as intense.
"I'm a competitive player, a passionate player," he said. "I'm coming here as a leader and I'm coming here to win, plain and simple. We are going to have a lot of wins in that stadium."
Indeed, the Buccaneers will see new leaders emerge in the coming months with the departures of such men as Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn and Ike Hilliard. Winslow could become one of those leaders, though he approached that idea with humility on Friday. He does understand that different players respond to different forms of leadership.
"Obviously around here, big names, they had to make some moves," said Winslow. "They are looking for someone to carry the torch. I'm a piece to the puzzle. I'm just a piece to the puzzle.
"I think everybody has their limits. I've learned that and I think that is all about being a leader also. Not everybody's [as intense as] Michael Jordan, not everybody's Kobe Bryant. You get the players around you better and that's what makes a team."
When he met with the press on Friday, Winslow had spoken with new Head Coach Raheem Morris and new General Manager Mark Dominik. He had met with new Offensive Coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, but not in depth. He had chatted with new Tight Ends Coach Alfredo Roberts, but not gotten into any real specifics of what would be expected of him.
Essentially, he had heard enough to convince himself that he had landed in a very good situation, but he was still extremely early in the process of becoming a contributing Tampa Bay Buccaneer. A late-afternoon plane flight beckoned, but if he had it his way, he would have stepped down from the podium and gone right to the practice field
"That's what they talked to me about, the leadership role," said Winslow. "Like I said, it's a new opportunity for me. I am really excited. Right after this, I'm ready to go."