Kellen Winslow Returns to the Field

Cleveland Browns TE Kellen Winslow is trying to return to the playing field and pick up where he left off in 2004. After some trying times away from the game he loves, and many long days of rehab, Kellen Winslow is ready to go.

Quarterback Charlie Frye dropped back and looked for a receiver. Unhurried and unthreatened thanks to the casual pace of mini-camp, Frye glanced to his right and then quickly looked back to his left.

Running about ten yards downfield, racing through the middle of the field to the left sideline, was TE Kellen Winslow. Frye flicked the pass towards the 6' 4" reciever, whose big hands opened up, awaited the ball, and snatched it viciously out of the air.

The last time Winslow ran routes during a Browns June practice was 2004, when he was wearing #11 and getting into tussles with veteran defenders. Charlie Frye was a senior at Akron.

Fans were calling Winslow the "chosen one". Still reminding him of his comments where he talked of being a "soldier" on a football battlefield.

That talk is quieter now. The excitement around Kellen Winslow is restrained, as he tries to pick up where he left off two years ago. Where there was once a media frenzy, there is now a sense of anticipation. 

While Winslow appears confident, doubt lingers in the air. No one has to go all out during mini-camp. Players wear shirts and shorts, without pads. He wears a sleeve over his right knee, a constant reminder of the season-derailing motorcycle accident over a year ago.

On the two Berea practice fields, players are eager to impress, but there is no hitting and it is tough to stand out as players acclimate themselves to playing again.

Winslow stands out anyway. It's hard to ignore the Miami product when he is on the field. He's a big tight end who runs like a reciever, and observers are drawn to him whenever he takes the field. Most remember the almost-daily displays during practice in 2004 which were the first clue that Winslow might turn out to be a very special player.

Despite his air of self-assurance, Winslow himself realizes that he isn't where he was before a game in Dallas and an early evening motorbike ride detoured his career, describing himself as being "90%".

He denies that it's hard to get adjusted to being out on the field again, and claims he doesn't feel rusty:

"That's why we practice", Winslow told reporters, "I think I'll be OK... I've spent a lot of rigorous hours with (strength and conditioning) Coach Lott and my teammates... a lot of pain and suffering I had to go through. But I'm almost back, and I'm happy to be back".

"I didn't think I was going to be this far, going everyday in practice. It's a really happy time for me right now".

The Browns themselves are treating Winslow gingerly, making sure that another year of his potential isn't wasted by over-reaching early. It's easy to tell that the player himself wants to go at it harder.

"They hold me back on certain reps," Winslow said after practice, "I think when we get in pads they'll hold me out a little bit. But I'm good to go."

While he is asked to tread carefully into the 2006 season, Winslow still recalls "a lot of long nights" and having to watch his teammates play while he was at home with his leg up and unable to to get out on the field and compete.

At the same time, Winslow claims the time away didn't make him appreciate the game more because, he suggests, it would be impossible to love the game more than he already did. 

It's clear that the competitive fire never stopped burning in Kellen Winslow, even when it looked like his career might be derailed for good. While he admits that he's "working on being more humble", the player still exudes confidence, a vital element in a game where a half-step can mean the difference between being an All-Pro, and being second-string, and where injury can end a career at any moment.

"I'm to keep on track, keep on pushing", Winslow said when asked what fans should expect of him.

"Fans should expect Super Bowl. That's all they can expect."

The OBR Top Stories