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With Winslow comes versatility
Kellen Winslow is listed as a tight end, although you’ll undoubtedly see the Seahawks’ latest acquisition line up as an H-back, a slot receiver, in two tight-end sets and even split or flanked in spots usually reserved for wide receivers.
It’s a diverse role that actually needs a new title, and Winslow came up with one on Thursday.
Kellen Winslow has been very productive in his first seven seasons in the NFL for the Browns and then the Buccaneers. But coach Pete Carroll also is impressed with the number of games the newest Seahawk has played (92) and starts Winslow has made (80) despite a knee condition that causes his practice reps to be monitored:
“You want to create mismatches, so I am kind of the knight in the chess game,” Winslow said after his second practice with the team that acquired him on Monday in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“You can move me around and control the middle of the field.”
How is it that a 6-foot-4, 240-pound player has the ability to excel in so many roles? Pete Carroll has the answer to that one.
“He’s a wide receiver in a tight end’s body,” the Seahawks’ third-year coach said after his team had wrapped up its first week of OTA sessions. “He’s got all that ability and route running, but more than that he makes plays. As well as, the thing I love about the guy the most is, he’s a great competitor. He just loves to play the game.
“And we can’t have enough of that around here.”
In checking Winslow’s resume from his first seven seasons in the league – the first four with the Cleveland Browns, the past three with the Bucs – the thing that jumps out is the number of receptions: 89 in 2006; 82 in 2007; 77 in 2009; 66 in 2010; and 75 last season.
The Seahawks’ franchise record for the position is 55 – in 2008 by John Carlson, the player Winslow was acquired to replace after Carlson signed with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency. Last season, the team’s three tight ends combined to catch 44 passes.
But there’s another stat connected with Winslow that also impresses Carroll.
“The number that’s striking is, I think he’s played in 16 games in six out of his eight years,” Carroll said.
Actually, it’s five out of seven, because Winslow sat out the 2005 season after playing in only two games as a rookie and then had a 10-game season in 2008 – all with the Browns. Two games into his rookie season in 2004, Winslow broke his right leg. In May of 2005, he tore a ligament in his right knee and spent the season on injured reserve. In 2008, he was hospitalized with a staph infection – but not until he had caught 43 passes in 10 games, a pace that would have produced a 69-catch season.
The situation with Winslow’s right knee will require his practice reps to be monitored.
“He’s been tremendously consistent in his play,” Carroll said. “We just have to really handle it right so that he can do it again.”
Exactly where Winslow fits, just how he’ll be used in tandem with Zach Miller and how many receptions he might have this season remains to be seen. But Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had plans last season to feature Miller and Carlson in two-tight end sets before Carlson was lost for the season in training camp with a shoulder injury.
“Kellen is a unique football player. He’s got special talents,” Carroll said. “So we have a guy we know can make things happen.
“We think it’s just a fantastic addition. Because he can make things happen, he can make plays, he should be a big factor on third down and in the red zone. We’ll see how we fit him in, and it’s going to take us a while to do that, but we’re really fired up to have him in there.”
This week has been more about frequent-flier miles than yards-after-the-catch for Winslow. He flew from his offseason home in San Diego to Tampa on Saturday because the Buccaneers’ OTAs began on Monday. But Winslow got a call late Saturday night, in Tampa, informing him of the Bucs’ plan to trade him. He then flew to Seattle after the trade was completed.
Before anyone had time to offer some sympathy, Winslow offered, “The NFL is hard. It’s good to have a job, so I’m OK. I’ll be OK.”
And his presence should make the Seahawks’ passing game better than just OK. It was Winslow who mentioned the New England Patriots and their use last season of tight ends Rod Gronkowski (90 catches for 1.327 yards and 17 touchdowns) and Aaron Hernandez (79 for 910 and seven).
“Zach Miller is a proven veteran,” Winslow said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do something like the Patriots are doing with Gronkowski and Hernandez. We kind of fit that mold. So I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Winslow is so happy to be with the Seahawks that he even listed the weather as plus in his relocation – along with Carroll’s infectious energy, the quality of his new teammates and the direction the team is heading.
“I can breathe out here,” he said. “My allergies were kicking up in Tampa.”
A breath of fresh air. That characterizes Winslow almost as well as his chess analogy.
“I’m here,” he said, “and I’m happy to be a piece to the puzzle.”