Kellen Winslow Jr.isn't Chad Johnson. So there were no wild proclamations about landing in heaven or being given his angel wings during Winslow's first meeting with the New England media, but it sounds like the tight end may have found his version of nirvana.
"I've never been in a situation like this. They do things and they practice and play the game like you're supposed to," said Winslow, who previously played for Cleveland and Tampa Bay. "Teams model themselves after the Patriots."
Those exact words, or some variation, have been uttered so often by incoming players that they border on becoming cliche, but something about Winslow's demeanor breathed substance into the typically hollowing offering.
Maybe it's because the recent turmoil he's faced could be felt in his voice or that he stopped to let his eyes grow wide before proclaiming that the Patriots "use tight ends the right way." Whatever the case, Winslow seems genuinely grateful for the his latest opportunity after being released by Seattle in late August.
And make no mistake, being dumped by the Seahawks still hurts.
"With what happened in Seattle ... I can't say much about what happened, man," said Winslow, who caught 75 passes for 763 yards last season for Tampa Bay. "It is what it is. I have to move on."
What led to his exile from Seattle is likely the same reason gates didn't open in Foxborough when he visited the Patriots two weeks ago. Teams are scared of his right knee, which has been operated on at least five times since a 2005 motorcycle accident.
Winslow didn't fail his physical with the Patriots, as was previously reported, but they were concerned enough with his health that the tight end believed the door shut behind him when he left town.
"It just didn't work out," he said.
The doubters have motivated Winslow. He knows that he wouldn't be in New England if Aaron Hernandez hadn't suffered a low-ankle sprain that is expected to keep him out for at least four games, and that he has to prove his knee can hold up through Halloween if his spot in nirvana is become more than a sublet.
But those concerns may not be fair. Winslow is quick to note that he hasn't missed a game since 2008 and that he he's been unfairly labeled as a permanent injury risk, though he does admit that he every time he takes the field he does so with a great deal of pain.
"I would say will, man. Overcome," Winslow said when asked how he fights through the pain. "It's my dream to play. Like I said, if I was missing games every year or something like that, it would be true."
Now Winslow has to overcome more than just his pain. He needs to conquer the Patriots' playbook -- "it's extensive," Winslow said -- in a short period of time if he hopes to make any type of impact filling in for Hernandez.
He's only been in the system for a day, but Winslow feels that he's making progress, though he wasn't willing to say if he would be ready in time for Sunday's game against Baltimore.
"We'll see. It's just my job to make plays when it comes to me and I just have to get the offense down," Winslow said. "I have a lot of work to do."
He does. But, for perhaps the first time in his career, the payoff could amount to more than individual accolades. Just having that chance, for many veteran players, is the very definition of nirvana.