CORTLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Kellen Winslow Jr.’s arms and shoulders are covered in tattoos he wishes he never got.
Especially the one on his left arm of a menacing skull with a Native American-style headdress.
“I’m going to cover this up someday with something that looks a little better,” the New York Jets tight end said after practice Thursday. “I’m Indian, so I got that there. I’m black, white and Indian. But, it’s just dumb stuff, you know? I got it when I was 22.”
Winslow’s right arm is decorated with several tribal tattoos and even a green and orange “U” in honor of his Miami Hurricanes days. The one he says he’ll always keep, though, is on his left forearm in big, black capital letters:
“WITHOUT STRUGGLE, THERE IS NO PROGRESS.”
They are the words of the late abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and perfectly summarize Winslow’s NFL career.
There has been criticism for questionable comments — “I’m a soldier” — during his college and pro career, a serious motorcycle accident in 2005, career-threatening injuries and doubts about his football future.
“There have always been questions, every season,” Winslow said. “You’ve got to prove yourself every time, every day. You have to do things the right way all the time. Every season, there’s something said about somebody that they can’t do something. That’s what motivates people.”
At 30 years old, Winslow believes he still has plenty of football left in him. That’s why he is setting his sights high for the Jets — despite having played just one regular-season game since 2011.
“My goal is to have 100 catches,” he said. “Will I have 100? I don’t know. I might have 20, you know? But that’s my goal. You play this game for something, and I know at the end of the day that’s going to help my team win because that’s what I do best.
“That’s a lot of first downs for the team.”
And a far cry from where Winslow was nearly a year ago.
The former Pro Bowl tight end had a solid training camp with Seattle, but was released after training camp
“They cut me over money,” he said. “And they put me in a bad situation.”
It’s also something that still clearly bothers him.
“It’s the past and … you just don’t do a vet like that,” he said. “That’s pretty much it.”
Winslow, who reportedly didn’t want to restructure his contract with the Seahawks, later signed with New England. He lasted one game — one catch for 12 yards — before asking to be released.
“I saw the situation over there and got a lot of respect for them over there,” he said. “But, you’ve got to learn the playbook and you need time to learn those plays in training camp. You can’t come in in Week 3 and, with those guys over there, think you’re going to get in.
“It wasn’t worth me being there sitting because I know what I can do.”
But Winslow ended up out of the game the rest of the season, wondering if he’d get another chance.
After the Jets allowed Dustin Keller to leave as a free agent and sign with Miami, they offered Winslow a tryout during minicamp. Winslow was impressive enough to warrant being signed by the Jets, whose new general manager John Idzik was in — of all places — Seattle’s front office last year.
“That wasn’t him at all,” Winslow said. “There was another GM there, and John gave me a chance to come here and do my thing. Much props to John, and he knows what I can do. And I’m going to do it for him.”
Winslow, the son of Hall of Famer and former Chargers star Kellen Winslow, was a first-round draft pick of Cleveland in 2004 and has 438 career receptions. The other tight ends on the Jets’ roster — Jeff Cumberland, Konrad Reuland, Hayden Smith, Mike Shanahan and Chris Pantale — have a combined 44 NFL catches. And with Santonio Holmes on the PUP list, passing options are limited.
Winslow, who rides a bike to and from practice, acknowledged that he is still working himself into football shape, and the Jets have him on a so-called “pitch count.” That means Winslow, who has a history of knee issues, gets rest days from practice during training camp to make sure he doesn’t overdo it physically.
“He’ll practice,” tight ends coach Steve Hagen said. “He’s played a lot of football. He’s not a knucklehead. He gets the game and he knows the game. He’s in every meeting. It’s not like he’s off playing poker when we’re meeting. He’s on the schedule, and it’s been great having him here.”
Hagan likes the enthusiasm from Winslow, who gets fired up on the practice field.
“He’s passionate about the game,” Hagen said. “You can see when he’s in there and he’s making a play, he’s talking and piping off. He’s like a thoroughbred horse that you hold in the gate, and you have to hold him in the gate or he’ll just run, run, run and run.”
This stint with the Jets has reunited Winslow with one of his best friends in the game, wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Winslow was Cleveland’s first-round draft pick in 2004, and Edwards was the Browns’ top pick a year later.
“We have a great chemistry, just in life,” Edwards said. “We like a lot of the same things and he’s a great guy, and he loves his wife and his son. Having him and him being around is fun. It’s something familiar and cool.
“He’s been through a lot in the last year and a half, obviously with Seattle, thinking that was going to be a home and the situation that happened there and then going out to the Patriots and leaving there. I think this is a good opportunity for him.”
Both Winslow and the Jets certainly hope so.
“It’s fun, man, but we’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “Everything’s fun, but training camp tells you a lot about yourself and we’ve got a long way to go.”
NOTES: CB Dee Milliner, the Jets’ first-round pick who signed Monday, participated in about 10 plays in 11-on-11 team drills. It was his first significant practice time since being drafted after he underwent shoulder surgery in March. “I thought he looked pretty good,” coach Rex Ryan said. “We’ll see how he feels with that shoulder and things. Certainly, we’re going to make sure he’s healthy before you put him out there. I like what I saw from him, the little bit today.” … DL Sheldon Richardson, the team’s other first-rounder, didn’t participate in team drills after having a root canal Wednesday. … RB Chris Ivory hasn’t participated in team drills yet while dealing with hamstring tightness. … S Rontez Miles was removed from the physically unable to perform list.
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