RENTON, Wa. -- Fresh off his second cross-country trip in the last week, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and current Seattle Seahawks tight end Kellen Winslow is still getting up to speed in his new environs after the trade that got him out of Greg Schiano's doghouse and onto Pete Carroll's roster.
Winslow was told last Saturday by Schiano, the Bucs' new coach, that he was persona non grata after missing a series of organized team activities, and the Bucs shipped the productive tight end to Seattle for a 2013 seventh-round pick (conditional sixth). So you'll forgive Winslow if he wasn't participating in team reps during Thursday's practice -- after flying from San Diego to Tampa to hear of the trade, and then from Tampa to Seattle to complete it, he might have been a bit jet-lagged.
"It's kind of shocking, but that's what it is," Winslow told Ross Tucker of SIRIUS NFL Radio on Monday morning. "[Schiano] said he was upset that I wasn't working out with the team in the offseason, and then, the first week of OTAs. But, look -- I've been there the last three years, and I've had a successful career so far, and you just don't get rid of one of your best players because of that. That's just what I was told, but I have nothing bad to say about coach Schiano -- it was just a disagreement on why I'm not there yet. I was training in San Diego, and I was going to start [in OTAs with the team] today, but I got the call on Saturday that they're looking for somebody else."
Similarly "lagged" in 2011 was the Seattle passing offense, especially at Winslow's position. Despite the free-agency acquisition of Zach Miller and a propensity for two-tight-end formations (39 percent last season), the Seahawks got just 25 receptions out of Miller, and he led the team. Winslow, in Tampa Bay's hamstrung offense, caught three times as many balls for the Bucs -- so, on the surface, Pete Carroll's excitement about the deal was understandable.
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"Kellen is a unique football player," Carroll said after practice. "He's got special talents. He's got a tremendous record of consistency, and I think we add a guy that we know can make things happen. But we think it's just a fantastic addition because he can make things happen, he can make plays, should be a big factor on third down and the red zone and we'll see how we fit him in. It's going to take us awhile to do that, but we're really fired up."
The injury history is an issue -- Winslow has had six separate surgeries on his right knee -- but he hasn't missed a game in the last three years and caught at least 66 passes in each of those campaigns. He's not a dominant player, but he is very productive, and that's a balm for a team that has had a bit of a black hole at the position for most of the last decade.
"I'll be good," Winslow said. "Zach Miller is a proven veteran here. Hopefully we'll be able to do something like the Patriots are doing with [Rob] Gronkowski and [Aaron] Hernandez. We kind of fit that mold, so I'm sure we'll be fine."
Matching their sets to the Patriots may be wishful thinking -- there's nobody catching passes of Gronk's caliber on this team -- but the point is well-made nonetheless. What Winslow allows the Seahawks to do is to keep Miller inline as the more traditional blocker, while Winslow lines up in different parts of the formation on the other side. Though Tampa Bay's 2011 offense was the ultimate cure for insomnia, Winslow was all over the place -- in the formation, flexed out, and sometimes, the man widest out from the line. He was also oftentimes the one tilting the field and forcing coverage out of the box, as much as anyone did for the Bucs last season. That's appealing to a Seahawks team desperate to do more with tight ends.
"He can do a bunch of stuff and he's done a lot of it in his career," Carroll said. "He's a wide receiver in a tight end's body. He's got all of that ability and route-running like I mentioned, but more than that he makes plays. As well as — the thing that I love about the guy the most — is that he's a great competitor. He just loves to play the game and we can't have enough of that around here."
Winslow agreed. "Yeah, you want to create mismatches so I'm kind of the knight in the chess game. You can move me around and control the middle of the field. So I guess you could label me as that. I do like to move around a lot though."
As to Winslow's reputation for off-field concerns and on-field attitude, it appears to be a manageable risk. None of Winslow's 2012 contract, inherited in the deal, is guaranteed, so the Seahawks can continue their practice of finding the fits with value gambles as they go.
"We like guys with special dimensions and he's got them," Carroll said of his newest weapon. "He's a real route-runner and a great, great catcher and he does stuff with the ball after he catches it, too. Zach is a dynamite 'Y' tight end in this offense — we use him for so many different special things because he's so good at it. To have the complement of these two guys going and the way we can mix it it's a really exciting aspect for our offense ... we're going to make the most of this trade and it's going to be really good."
As Winslow said on Thursday, "It's good to have a job." Now on his third NFL team in an eight-year career, the first-round pick of the 2004 Cleveland Browns has an opportunity to move past the past and get started on a better future.