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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Buccaneers' Kellen Winslow feeling good, working hard

If Kellen Winslow has learned nothing else in his seven NFL seasons, he’s gained invaluable knowledge about working through the complications of his battered right knee.

After five surgeries and years of intense pain that he rarely even acknowledges, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers star tight end has learned what works and what doesn’t. He knows when to go hard and when to lay off.

And, based on his performance in player-only workouts organized to get the team through the NFL lockout, Winslow definitely is turning up the intensity. That’s because his knee feels as good as it has in years. This is a rare offseason that hasn’t been interrupted by a surgical procedure on the joint, and that has allowed Winslow to push himself unlike most summers.

“Last year I was hurting, but I know how to rehab my knee better,” Winslow said after a 90-minute workout in Tampa this week. “I feel good. I feel as ready as I can be right now.”

Winslow now admits that has rarely been the case. He recalled his earliest days with the Bucs, after his offseason trade to Tampa Bay in 2009, when he took criticism from fans for not being present at the team’s voluntary OTA practice sessions (offseason team activities). But Winslow says he had a very valid reason for his absence.

“The reason I wasn’t back, honestly, is I didn’t feel like my knee was where it should be, so I needed to rehab back in San Diego, do my own workouts,” he said. “That’s kind of why I wasn’t there. And when I was in Cleveland, well, it was just Cleveland. I would rather not be there and be at home training in the offseason.”

Winslow makes no pretense about his dislike for his time with the Browns organization, which drafted him in the first round in 2004. But he has no ill feelings toward the Bucs. In fact, his sentiments are quite the opposite as he looks forward to what he thinks is a promising 2011 season.

“I’m in the perfect place,” he said.

Winslow has averaged 72 receptions in his first two seasons with the Bucs there’s reason to believe he can maintain that if he continues to manage his knee pain. That task has gotten easier, Winslow said, because he has learned to properly use an advanced muscle stimulation machine used by Dwight Freeney and other players. Last season, Winslow said, he used it incorrectly, which did more harm than good.

As a result, “It was affecting my knee in a certain way. So that’s kind of what was going on last year when I was hurting and why I wasn’t practicing in training camp,” Winslow said. “(People asked) ‘Why isn’t Kellen practicing?’ But I’ve learned how to use the machine better, so my knee feels better.”

So good, in fact, that Winslow plans to join fellow University of Miami alumni/NFL players in Coral Gables in a few weeks to partake in longtime UM trainer Andreu Swasey’s famous offseason workouts. Winslow has even extended an invitation to Freeman, with whom he is building a close bond. Freeman is still mulling the offer.

The workouts are in intense, not the sort of thing intended for a guy who isn’t confident in his knee. But Winslow clearly is feeling great, and if football at some point resumes, the Bucs will reap the benefits of his good health.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 12:28pm]

    

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