When the Cleveland Browns take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 1:00 PM on Sunday, they’ll be lining up against a couple of guys that used to wear the Orange and Brown in center Jeff Faine, safety Sean Jones, and tight end Kellen Winslow II.
At this point, if you’re like me, you’re probably indifferent by now to the first two names I mentioned so I won’t get into any specifics about them other than to say that they both failed to live up to expectations in Cleveland.
But seeing Winslow, as a member of the opponent? Now that’s a sight that’s all but guaranteed to conjure up some feelings in you that, at one point, were probably quite strong – one way or the other.
Truth is, there’s just no middle of the road when it comes to Winslow, and there never has been. You either really liked him, or you really didn’t.
With that said, I’d venture to say that the majority of fans will be glad (or at at the least relieved) to see Winslow in a Bucs’ uniform come Sunday afternoon. After all, his five-year stint in Cleveland was a tulmultuous one, to say the least, and there’s no doubt he failed to live up to expectations like his two current teammates as his career was derailed by injuries and overshadowed by his brash, confident persona.
Having said that, I’d bet that a lot of fellow Browns’ fans weren’t heartbroken when Winslow was traded to the Bucs in February of 2009, the move which ushered in the Eric Mangini-era in Cleveland. For the most part, I can understand why many view his time with the Browns in a negative light. And I certainly can’t fault Mangini for quickly shipping Winslow out of town once he arrived, either. With the Belichickian-type culture he was trying to instill in both the organization and in the locker room, it was just too risky to keep him around. If you can trade a potentially divisive, pass catching tight end with creaky knees for draft picks, you do it, so I really can’t argue Mangini’s decision to let go of Winslow right off the bat.
***However, I don’t understand trading up to draft a running back with bad knees, but that’s besides the point.
So for those of you that are glad Winslow is no longer with the Browns, I get where you’re most likely coming from.
As far as myself, personally, well I’ve always been a big fan and supporter of Winslow - and that dates back to his infamous “solider” tirade while at Miami. Admittedly, that was a dumb comparison to make at that time or anytime, but it was this soldier type mentality that I came to respect and admire from Winslow down the road.
Sure, he continued to pop off at the mouth from time to time , and riding a motorcycle is never a wise decision when your career depends upon your health, but it’s not like Winslow was ever accused of raping somebody or caught with sizzurp. Hell, I don’t even think he has a gun charge to his credit. He was just young and immature like most people in their early twenties are.
So instead of remembering his reckless mouth or his reckless off the field behavior, what I’ll remember most about Winslow’s career with the Browns was how he always played hard and competed everytime he was out on the field.
Yes, his blocking was less than desirable, but not once did I ever question his heart or toughness. Maybe he was just playing for personal redemption or maybe even for arrogant pride, but watching him play reminded me that some athletes do in fact play for things other than a contract. Some guys really do want to win and prove that they’re the best at what they do, which is something I can appreciate after witnessing the end of LeBron James’ career in Cleveland.
So that’s what I’ll remember most come Sunday afternoon while watching our former sure-handed tight end play against us, how he always played hard despite never being fully healthy and 100%. And I also won’t forget that he did give the Browns two very productive seasons after all, tying Ozzie Newsome’s single season team record for catches in a season (89) in 2006, and following it up the next year with a 1,000 yard campaign.
Oh yeah, and please don’t forget this. Enjoy.
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