The Monday morning news came straight from the mouth of Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow when he told Ross Tucker of SIRIUS NFL Radio that his current team was looking to trade him -- and if that didn't work out, a release could be imminent.
"It's kind of shocking, but that's what it is," Winslow said. "He [referring to head coach Greg 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."
Winslow was especially surprised, given his claim that he has participated in a team event before in this preseason. "There was a previous minicamp -- I went to that. It was a three-day minicamp and then, I came back down to San Diego to train, and I was going to start [back with the team] today."
According to Winslow, he flew cross-country from San Diego to Tampa to hear that he was going to be gone. "They tried to catch me before I left, but that didn't work out."
So, there it is. The Bucs were apparently trying to swing a trade with the Bears involving Winslow a while back, but that never came to fruition. We know that Schiano has said a great many things about creating a new culture of accountability and responsibility for the Bucs (how he does that with a straight face after the circumstances surrounding the Butch Davis hire is another matter), but the plan to just jettison Winslow is a curious one, at best.
Winslow regressed in 2011, but he did so along with the rest of the Buccaneers' offense, and he played often despite a balky right knee weakened from six different surgeries through his career. In October, he leaped over New Orleans Saints cornerback Jabari Greer in a move that showed that he still has at least enough athleticism to help any team that's weak at the tight end position ... like the Buccaneers after Saturday night. Luke Stocker and Chase Coffman are now the relatively unproven incumbents.
"Honestly, I don't even know where that came from," Winslow said after a 26-20 Bucs win in which he caught five passes. "I didn't know I could do that anymore. I'm on one leg out there, but it's all about helping your team out there. You can hurt later."
Does that sound like a malingerer to you? Look -- Winslow has clearly gone through his share of off-field issues, and he's been tagged as a "character risk" as a result. But it isn't as if he's been "lollygagging around the field," to paraphrase the skipper in "Bull Durham."
In 2011, Winslow was targeted 120 times -- the fourth-most among all tight ends, behind only Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Pettigrew. His 75 catches for 763 yards and two touchdowns put him second in all categories behind receiver Mike Williams, and while we're quite sure free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson will take targets away from everyone, this move seems a bit excessive. It's being compared to Schiano's decision to release troubled safety Tanard Jackson, but that really isn't in the ballpark -- Jackson had missed 23 games over the last three seasons due to various substance abuse suspensions. In those same three seasons, Winslow started 40 of a possible 48 games, and caught 218 passes for 2,377 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In a larger sense, Schiano had best be careful here as he navigates his way through the NFL career after a successful tenure at Rutgers. One of the primary reasons college coaches wash out in the pros is that they don't understand the negative blowback you get when you become known for releasing players under questionable circumstances. There's always the possibility that there are aspects to this story we don't know ... but on the surface, it seems pretty flimsy.