Kellen Winslow catching on

Moments after walking off the field at the conclusion of the Seahawks’ minicamp practice on Tuesday, Kellen Winslow was asked how his impact on the offense might increase once he’s healthy.

Winslow’s response was as exact as it was honest.

“If I was healthy, which I never will be again, I would be Aaron Hernandez and (Jason) Witten together,” he said.

“Really?” the questioner asked.

“Yeah,” Winslow said, punctuating the assessment with a laugh. “But, hey, I do what I can out there with the situation I have.”

The former Pro Bowl tight end the Seahawks acquired last month in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers never will be 100 percent healthy because of the serious knee injury he got in 2005 while playing for the Cleveland Browns, and the staph infection that followed in 2008.

“It was the hardest thing that ever happened to me – the accident and then the staph infection on top of that,” he said.

The double-whammy situation has left Winslow with a right knee that continues to limit his practice time, if not his productivity – as he averaged 73 receptions the past three seasons for the Bucs.

“I wasn’t supposed to be playing, but I wasn’t going to let that go,” he said. “This is all I have. I want to be out here with the guys and do this as long as I can.”

You would never know that Winslow is “limited” while watching him work on the practice field, where his combination of smoothness and deceptiveness allows him to get open on pass routes.

“I think he’s going to be a great addition,” quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said. “He’s come out the first couple days and made some great catches. He’s always pretty much open. He finds a way to get open, so that’s going to be big for us on offense.”

Remember all the plans the Seahawks had for using Zach Miller and John Carlson in two-tight end sets last year, before Carlson was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury and then to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency? Those plans are back on; with Winslow stepping in to the role Carlson was expected to fill.

“You always need two guys (at that position) that you can get the ball to,” Jackson said. “Zach knows the system. He’s been in it. He found a way to get open. But Kellen will be a great addition to that. We can have a two-tight end set and have dual threats on the inside, taking a lot of pressure off the outside guys.”

Winslow is a student of the game because he grew up around the game. His father, also Kellen, was a Hall of Fame tight end for the San Diego Chargers. And this student as a PhD when it comes to tight-end play – as evidenced by his reference to Hernandez, who caught 79 passes for the New England Patriots last season; and Witten, who also had 79 catches for the Dallas Cowboys and is Winslow’s pick as the most-complete tight end in the league.

Asked to elaborate on the aspect of their games that he tries to emulate, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Winslow offered, “Aaron Hernandez, his shiftiness, his routes. He’s a little shorter guy; he’s about 6-1. So he’s real shifty, real great route runner. And Witten just does everything right. I think he’s the best all-round tight end in the NFL. He has no weakness.”

That only makes Winslow’s comparison even stronger. But then, he knows his ample game, and his physical limitations.

“I’ve been playing like this ever since I came back,” he said of 2009, the start of his three-season run as the Bucs’ leading receiver. “And I’ve been playing well. So I’m OK with it. It’s something I have to deal with everyday.

“But it humbled me, and it keeps me going. It happened for a reason. So I’m OK. I’m OK.”

The Seahawks are more than OK with adding a tight end with Winslow’s talents to their still-under-construction offense.

“He finds a way to get open,” Jackson said – a reoccurring theme of an assessment whenever anyone is asked to comment on Winslow. “He changes speed. He switches up on guys. He’s a smart guy.

“I’ve seen him do some things that a lot of guys probably wouldn’t do. He’s been in the league for a long time now, so he has a little more experience than some of the guys we have. So those guys can watch him and take some stuff that he does and to apply it to their game.”
Winslow also has been watching the other tight ends.

Winslow on Miller: “Obviously, Zach is a helluva player. All-around great tight end. Can block. Can do anything you ask him to.”

Winslow on Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah: “Cam’s very athletic. Can block. And then Anthony is just real explosive and has a lot of potential.”

Winslow on himself: “I’m coming in just being a piece of the puzzle, and I’ve come to make plays. That’s what I do.”

Bulky knee and all. “I do what I can out there with the situation I have,” he said. “This is my dream to play, so I’m going to keep playing as long as I can.”

And doing for a Seahawks team that can use anything – and everything – Winslow has.

“I feel at home here,” he said. “I really do.”

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