Kellen Winslow a conspicuous presence at first day of Jets minicamp

Kellen Winslow Jr. said all the right things and made a number of positive plays on Tuesday during the first day of Jets minicamp, which also doubled as a tryout for the former first-round draft pick of the Browns. With the team's tight end situation in a state of flux, the oft-injured Winslow Jr. could provide a helpful spark for the Jets if he can show glimpses of the talent that once earned him the riches contract ever for a tight-end at $36 million over six years with Tampa Bay in 2009.

After a disastrous stint with the Patriots last year in which he suited up for just one game, the 29-year-old is trying to breathe new life into his once fabulous career. He was home Saturday, his future in doubt when he got a call from the Jets inviting him to the three-day camp.

“My job is to make plays and however it works out that’s how it works out,” he said following practice at the team’s Florham Park, N.J. facility. “I’m a playmaker and my job is just to make plays. So I’m just trying to make the team.”

Winslow was a conspicuous presence on 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills Tuesday as he caught passes from both Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith -- he made a particularly nice diving catch on a pass from Smith. Winslow dismissed the idea that not knowing the starting quarterback made it difficult for him to find his comfort zone.

“No, I’m just trying to learn the offense,” he said. “I got a lot to learn and my job is to learn the offense and try and make this team.”

Winslow was an All-American at the University of Miami and was selected sixth overall in the 2004 draft by the Browns, before a motorcycle accident nearly ended his career. But Winslow Jr. returned to the Browns, telling the Associated Press in 2006 that even at 90% he was “still better than every tight end out there.”

He backed up those words, finishing with 82 catches for 1,106 yards in 2007 and was named a first alternate to the Pro Bowl behind Antonio Gates before Gates backed out and Winslow took his place. He then embarked on a record-breaking season with the Buccaneers, setting a new franchise record for catches (77) and receiving yards (884) in 2009.

“Well, I have years left,” he said on Tuesday of the shelf-life of his career. “My last year was 2011 [when] I caught 75 balls and so I’ve been productive. It’s just the NFL. It’s how it goes sometimes. You get cut, you get traded, and you can’t do anything about it. It’s out of my control, you know?”

He described the process of waiting around for a team to show interest in him as painful because of the uncertainty involved. Winslow received comfort from his Hall of Fame father, Kellen Sr., but mostly from his wife, Janelle, he said.

“It was hard, very hard,” he said. “It’s a situation that I’ve never gone through, probably one of the hardest situations I’ve ever [had]. You don’t know what your future holds and this is my dream and when it’s taken away like that it’s hard, very hard.”

Asked if it was emotionally uncomfortable for a former Pro Bowler to be relegated to having to audition to make the team, he said, “Not really, not at all. I’ve had a real productive career, not awkward at all. This is how the NFL is. It’s a business and I’ve been very productive.”

Besides, it beats the alternative, which was to be “sitting on the couch. So I’m going to prove myself and try and impress the coaches.”

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