TE Kellen Winslow noticed some adjustments in the Bucs' playbook since his last practice but intends to catch up quickly
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened another week of "organized team activity" practices on Tuesday morning with only about half a dozen players on their current 85-man roster not on the field. Some of the absent players were in the training room getting treatment for minor injuries, a few others were handling outside commitments.
Tight end Kellen Winslow was one of the nearly 80 men who were on the field on Tuesday, after he had missed the first five OTA practices while attending to family matters. Of course, all OTA days are completely voluntary; Winslow thanked Head Coach Raheem Morris and General Manager Mark Dominik for "excusing" him in advance, but he didn't actually require permission. Suffice it to say, everyone was on the same page.
Winslow intends to be at all of the eight remaining OTA practices that precede the mandatory mini-camp in the third week of June and he's excited to be back at work. The only thing that would make it better, he said, is if the games weren't still three months away.
"[OTA practices] are very important," said Winslow. "You do need to be here, and I wish I could have been here. I just couldn't. I wanted to be down here to get the playbook down and just to be here with the guys."
Winslow attended the Bucs' voluntary mini-camp in late March and early April, the only full-team work before the 2009 draft filled out the 80-man offseason roster. On Tuesday, he could already see the progress that has been made in absorbing new Offensive Coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski's schemes.
"When we had the mini-camp, I took as many notes as I could," he said. "We made some adjustments, so I'm trying to catch myself up, but it won't take long. It's a very simple offense and I like it because it's not too much volume of words. Whoever gets open is going to get open and get the ball, and we're going to run the ball. That's going to be our scheme and I'm just going to try to do my piece for the puzzle and make plays."
Of course, the Buccaneers are just as thrilled to have Winslow back at team headquarters because they expect him to be an integral part of their offense in 2009 and for years to come. He already has two 80-catch seasons in the NFL, either of which would shatter the Buccaneers' single-season record for a tight end, has been to the Pro Bowl and owns career per-game averages of 5.0 receptions and 55.9 yards that compare favorably with the league's best players at his position. Winslow was this prolific in Cleveland by making plays all over the field, well beyond the range of most tight ends, and the Buccaneers hope to utilize him similarly.
"I had a pretty high volume of places I could be in Cleveland and I imagine I would do that here, just to find the matchups and take advantage of those," he said. "It's my second chance. Everything I learned in Cleveland, good and bad, I'm taking it here. I'm excited to go. I really wish the season was tomorrow, just to get going, but I'm just glad to be out there with the guys."
Winslow's first OTA with the Buccaneers continues a five-week run of those 14 allotted days, in which the team can put together full-scale practices, albeit without contact. Most of the players have actually been at the facility every week since the middle of March, but only for weight room work, light running on the field or quick classroom meetings. By contrast, Tuesday's OTA included an early morning team meeting, breakout position meetings, the practice, a weight-room session immediately following the field work and another quick round of meetings.
That was fine with Winslow, who was eager to immerse himself in football again.
"Everybody's working hard," he observed. "I'm just trying to get myself back into shape and into the playbook. I'm just excited to be out there with the guys practicing and getting my wind underneath me."