The diving catch of a low pass on a hard slant? Whatever.
The leaping grab over the outstretched arms of cornerback Ronde Barber, who had been called a 'tight end killer' by his head coach only minutes before? Eh.
The full-speed extension on a pass over the middle that was just a little too long for its wide-open target? Hardly worth mentioning.
All of those moments belonged to Kellen Winslow on Saturday afternoon, and while we're obviously portraying them as stellar plays, they did not add up to a good practice for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end. That's not a needlessly harsh assessment on our part; that's Winslow's own opinion.
It's tempting to twist Winslow's words to fit the preconceived storyline that any observer of Saturday's practice at the Buccaneers' training camp would have emerged with. To the untrained eye – heck, to the eyes of many folks who have seen a lot of football – Winslow appeared to be dominant on the practice field on the second day of the Bucs' camp. He caught a noticeably large number of passes from his main man, Josh Freeman, and as described above, several were of the sensational variety.
But nobody knows Winslow's craft better than Winslow himself, and in this case we have to take him at his word. And the eighth-year tight end simply was not satisfied with his performance Saturday, though he sounded more matter-of-fact than displeased with himself. All part of the process of getting better, it seems.
"Maybe it looked good out here, but I know where I'm supposed to be," said Winslow of his practice results. "We've got landmarks. It was good but not great. You strive to be perfect, and I just wasn't good today.
"I just tried to do too much. Sometimes I try to do too much and you don't need to. We don't have pads on and it looks good out here but I didn't do good today. Really, I'm serious, I didn't."
(But can we spin it positively? Oh yes, we can!)
Winslow did not have a good practice on Saturday – we can accept that. Apparently he committed route-running mistakes that will be apparent to him and his coaches and the other tight ends in the room when they watch tape after practice. Maybe that last-second extension on the deep ball described above would not have been necessary had he followed a truer route.
Like a pitcher who battles his way through seven innings without his best stuff, giving up some hits but getting the critical outs, Winslow showed that he can still stand out in a crowd even when he's not completely dialed in. Whatever necessitated those amazing catches, they were still made, and not many players would have made them. Head Coach Raheem Morris could probably find some things on tape to harp on, too, but he saw an impact player at work on Saturday.
"He caught a lot of balls and that's Kellen Winslow," said Morris. "Kellen's never satisfied. Kellen came to me in week two of last year and said, 'I can do more.' Excuse me, that was Week Three after the big Carolina game. Okay. Do more. He's just a critical guy of himself. He's critical of his game. He's always coming to me asking what I can see in his route combinations, what I can see in his practice habits, is his tempo getting better? He takes his playbook into the whirlpool. He's just one of those guys. He's always going to be critical of himself and very demanding upon himself. He has high expectations. That's what makes him a great player."
Since the Buccaneers sent a second-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in March of 2009 to acquire Winslow (the first big move by new General Manager Mark Dominik), Winslow has played in all 32 Buccaneer games and produced some of the best tight end numbers in team history. He has already taken over the team's single-season records for catches and yards by a tight end, and last year he ranked sixth in the NFL at his position in receiving yards.
To do so, Winslow has exhibited a daily commitment to the hard work Morris describes above. Several early-season knee injuries have put him in the position to manage his legs very carefully in order to be on the field on Sundays. At times, the Bucs have cut his workload in order to help with this process, but Winslow would like to participate in every training camp practice this year if he could.
"I could be a baby about it and [say], 'I'm not going today,'" he said. "But I've been doing this since I came back from my accident. This is all I ever wanted to do and I'm doing it. I want to be the best. It takes this work to get it done."
Joseph: Happy but Restless
Davin Joseph signed a new seven-year contract with the Buccaneers within an hour after the 6:00 p.m. green light for free agents on Friday night. He had a jersey on and was on Tampa Bay's practice field on Saturday afternoon. He won't be able to step on the field and take his spot on the starting line, however, until next Thursday.
That's not sitting real well with the affable veteran.
"No, no, it's not okay," he said. "Not at all. But it's the situation. We're able to work out at another facility close by, to get some work in, but it's just not the same. It was tough watching everybody get after it today and not be able to participate, but in due time."
Joseph smiled broadly as he said this, as he usually does, but he really was pained by the situation. He and his longtime buddy on the Bucs' line, Jeremy Trueblood, got to experience the crushing heat of Saturday's practice at One Buc without getting in on any of the competition. The same thing will happen on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday (Tuesday is a day off), because the new CBA does not allow signed free agents to begin working with their teams until the deal is completely ratified by the NFLPA.
Fortunately, Joseph has plenty of other things to be happy about, not the least of which is that seven-year deal that quite plainly told him how much he is valued by the only NFL organization he has known. That new CBA was a boost, too, as it meant football would start on time (if not quite so for him).
"I'm happy to have the CBA done, a 10-year deal, and now I'm looking at myself having a seven-year deal," he said. "I'm looking to stay in Tampa for the rest of my career and that's a good feeling. The last two weeks have been very good."
He surely must have also heard the vocal support from Buccaneer teammates during the short week of negotiations that led up to Friday's official signing. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy lobbied for his return, saying Joseph makes him a better player on the practice field. Center Jeff Faine told reporters he was very eager to have Joseph back on the line with him. Head Coach Raheem Morris made it clear that Joseph's return was a top priority. This is one player nobody wanted to see get away.
"We all out here have a common respect for each other," said an appreciative Joseph. "Going through a couple seasons ago, having a really tough 3-13 season, coming back to be able to put together a 10-6 season, knowing we have a lot of momentum going forward – I think we all have become fans of each other. We have that common respect. It's good to know that the guys in the locker room have respect for you, the coaches and the staff. We have a lot of guys like that here. It's good to have that chemistry."
Updates: Signings and Injuries
After a necessary flurry of activity on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the Buccaneers took care of a few loose ends on the roster on Saturday morning.
Defensive tackle Frank Okam became the sixth and final restricted free agent on the team's own list to accept his tender offer and re-sign with the team. Okam wasn't any less eager to re-sign than Connor Barth and company; he simply didn't arrive in town until late Friday night. Like his fellow RFAs, Okam was in a jersey and on the sideline on Saturday afternoon, though he could not yet participate.
Running back Allen Bradford, the Buccaneers' sixth-round pick this past April, also inked his first NFL deal on Saturday morning. That concluded the team's work on its 2011 draft class and meant the entire group collectively missed a total of one walk-through and one full-speed practice. Bradford was in practice gear and on the field on Saturday with the rest of the running backs.
The Buccaneers have reported just one significant injury from the practice field after two days, and even that one is not considered a long-term problem. Rookie tight end Luke Stocker, the team's fourth-round draft pick, sustained a hip injury on Friday evening and did not finish the first full-speed practice of camp. On Saturday he watched from the sideline on crutches, but Morris said that Stocker's injury is a week-to-week issue.
Several other players, including wide receiver Mike Williams, suffered from cramps during practice on Friday evening, but Morris said the team handled the even hotter day on Saturday much better. Williams was back on the field and was able to participate fully in the workout from beginning to end.