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.
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."
Kellen Winslow Jr. is still bitter about how his tenure with the Seahawks ended last year. But he absolved one of Seattle’s old executives — John Idzik, now the Jets general manager.“That wasn’t him at all,” Winslow said yesterday. “There was another GM there [John Schneider]. ... 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 is Idzik’s new tight end, signing with the Jets in June and preparing to replace Dustin Keller. Winslow, who turned 30 last week, ranks as one of the roster’s most intriguing players. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, he’s a former Pro Bowler and he has caught at least 75 passes fn a season four times.
CRUISING SPEED : Kellen Winslow Jr., riding a stationary bike at Jets practice yesterday, is bitter over being released by the Seahawks right before last season and vows to show up Seattle.Anthony J Causi
CRUISING SPEED : Kellen Winslow Jr., riding a stationary bike at Jets practice yesterday, is bitter over being released by the Seahawks right before last season and vows to show up Seattle.Winslow, however, is coming off a campaign in which he played only one game and caught one pass. He was released by the Seahawks four days before the 2012 NFL season started and played just one game with the Patriots before requesting his release.Winslow, who spent time with the Browns and Buccaneers before being dealt to the Seahawks before last season, admitted to being upset with Seattle. The Seahawks released him Sept. 1. Winslow said “they cut me over money.” According to the Seattle Times, Winslow wouldn’t take a pay cut.
“You just don’t do a vet like that,” Winslow said yesterday.
Schneider did not respond to an email regarding Winslow’s comments. The Jets and Seahawks don’t play this season, so Winslow’s only shot for revenge would be if — by some miracle, in the Jets’ case — the two teams make the Super Bowl.Winslow has had health issues in his career, but most came years ago. He played two games total in 2004 and 2005 thanks to a broken leg and a motorcycle accident, but played 16 games in five of the next six seasons from 2006-11 (he played 10 games in 2008). Winslow said he believes he can play 16 for the Jets, citing his past experience.
“My will takes over for my pain,” he said.
In the five seasons in which he played 16 games, Winslow averaged 77.8 catches. So when he plays, he is productive. Is it possible he could reemerge as a valuable player for the Jets ? “My goal is to have 100 catches,” Winslow said, reiterating a comment he made a few weeks ago. “Will I have 100? I don’t know. I might have 20. But that’s my goal.”The Jets are limiting Winslow’s work in camp. Winslow called it “frustrating, but ... smart.“I’ll be ready for the season,” he added.Tight ends coach Steve Hagen praised Winslow’s passion.“He’s like a thoroughbred horse that you hold in the gate,” Hagen said. “I’ve got to hold him in the gate or he’d just run, run, run, run, run.”Winslow said the Seahawks “put me in a bad situation.” And when he joined the Patriots, he said, he didn’t have sufficient time to familiarize himself with New England’s playbook. Either way, Winslow said he believes being with the Jets — and Idzik — works.
“Last year I don’t know what happened in Seattle. That was on [coach] Pete [Carroll],” he said. “But I’m here now and this is a great opportunity for me.”
Konrad Reuland Works to Become Complete TE
The Jets view Konrad Reuland as a tight end who can both block and catch the football.
The second-year man had 11 receptions on 16 passes thrown to him for 83 yards last season with only three starts. In addition, Reuland said, “I think toward the end of the year especially, I was really heavily involved in the run game.”
“I pride myself on kind of being a jack-of-all-trades,” he said, “a guy that can do a little bit of everything.”
As long as he’s helping the team win, he’s eager to do anything asked of him.
“If they want me as more of a blocker like they did last year, then that’s fine with me.” he said. “I’m also excited to show what I can do in the receiving game and running and catching and all that as well.”
Reuland and tight ends coach Steve Hagen spend time after each practice in film sessions finding a specific thing for Reuland to work on in the next day’s drills. It’s a tactic that he has been using since his college playing days.
“A lot of times I see it myself and pick it up in the film,” Konrad said. “There are other times where I don’t even realize that I’m doing something that’s not exactly how they want it, and they’ll coach me up on it, too.
“For some people, you have a big glaring weakness and you focus on that every day,” he said. “When you get to this level, everyone’s pretty good at multiple things, so it’s ‘Hey, I’m not really doing this as well as I could so I’m going to try to focus on that today.’ ”
Today’s practice, for example, the focus was on footwork, making sure “I was getting my second step in the ground,” he said. In the first few days of camp, he worked on keeping his pads low to the ground. “I’m a tall guy,” he said, “so the first couple days of pads, you tend to stand up a little bit.”
Reuland hoped that the things he had been working on would carry over into last Saturday night’s Green & White Scrimmage. He described his performance as “a little bit up and down,” as he felt like he blocked well but there was a ball thrown over the middle that he thinks he could have come down with.
“It would’ve been a tough catch,” he said, “but I expect myself to catch every ball if I can get my hands on it.”
For the past few days, “basically after the scrimmage,” Konrad Reuland has been anticipating the team’s first preseason game in Detroit. “I’m just excited to start playing some games and hitting some other people,” he said.
The mindset for a preseason game remains the same as that of training camp as far as knowing your assignments and executing the plays go. But “there’s nothing like hitting a different color jersey,” he said.
In practice, Reuland said, “We’re teammates so you’re helping people out. You’re not trying to get that kill shot when no one’s looking. It will be fun to line it up and to just truly dislike the people against you.”
~ ~ You don’t usually receive a hardy “Cheers, mate” when you introduce yourself to a professional football player, unless of course you’re shaking hands with Aussie native and Jets hopeful Hayden Smith.The 28-year-old Smith is entering his second season with the Jets, coming off his NFL rookie season in which he played in five games and recorded one reception for 16 yards.The 6'6" tight end will look to be more productive in 2013 and that begins with playing well enough in training camp to be included on the final 53-man roster.Smith continues to face the unique challenge of taking the skills he developed playing professional rugby and collegiate basketball and transitioning them onto the football field. He is confident that his past athletic endeavors have translated to his new profession.“My basketball background made the passing game just more natural. The blocking is something that I’ve had to spend some time with,” he said. “Obviously it still needs improvement. I don’t think anyone is ever satisfied with where they are so I'll continue to work hard on all aspects of my game.”
Smith believes that the antidote for any growing pains he may feel is simply getting out on the field and playing football."When you first jump in, there’s a lot of elements that are very foreign," he said. "The more you play the game, the more you can just be comfortable in what’s going on and what you are trying to achieve on each individual play.”Hayden Smith has worked predominantly with the third-team offense, fighting for the third tight end spot with fellow second-year man Konrad Reuland, who has been impressed with Smith’s athletic ability.“He’s an incredible athlete,” Reuland said. “He’s been able to play three different sports at a high level. I would say he’s done a heck of a job and he’s gotten a lot better. He’s definitely coming on strong.”Both men have showed promise through the first two weeks of training camp, Smith employing a strategy that has him focusing on “working on one thing every day.”“We watch the film pretty extensively every day and we're always picking up little things that you feel like you need to get better with,” he said. “It's just a process of picking out and identifying those things and coming out the next day and trying to be better in those areas.”
As impressive as Smith and Reuland have been during the Jets' stay at SUNY Cortland (for instance, each caught a short touchdown pass during goal line drills last Friday), their NFL readiness will be tested Friday night when the Jets take on the Detroit Lions in their first preseason game.“It's exciting. It's been over six months since we’ve been able to put the pads on against another team and play a little bit of football,” Smith said. “It's certainly a lot longer offseason than what I’m used to in rugby.”Smith wasn’t able to hide to his enthusiasm when asked to comment on finally being able to hit somebody on a different team.
“It would be nice,” he said, a slight grin creeping across his face. “It would definitely be nice.”