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Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow receives utmost security

TAMPA — Life is not bad for Kellen Winslow.

It is so not bad.

The Bucs don't mind the tight end spending most of the offseason working out in San Diego, skipping several training camp practices and being handled like a family heirloom in the preseason.

"There is no doubt about it. He is definitely treated differently than a lot of other players," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.

King James wasn't the only one eager to abdicate the throne in Cleveland for palm trees and sunshine. But the decision for Winslow was made for him in February 2009 when the Bucs dealt two draft picks to the Browns and made him one of the NFL's highest-paid tight ends.

Winslow, 27, responded last season by leading the Bucs in receptions (77), receiving yards (884) and touchdowns (five).

Also, knee surgeries (six).

After a minor procedure in the spring on his right knee, which was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in 2005, the Bucs' goal this offseason was to get their biggest offensive weapon to the starting line.

The fact that the season opener Sunday comes against Winslow's former team is like throwing Delmonico steaks to Dobermans.

"I'm sure he has some fuel. I'm sure he has something hidden away," Morris said. "He has some articles stowed away somewhere or something that was said negative about this young man. But that's what gets him going.

"That's who Kellen is. He goes out. He prepares. He practices. He plays. He loves the game. He'll use anything for motivation. He gets motivated to practice against my defense every day because he loves and enjoys playing the game."

Of course, Winslow has learned to contain his flame.

Despite the broken right leg in Week 2 of his rookie season, the crash that left him with a lacerated liver, bruised kidney and torn ACL and being hospitalized with the staph infection the Browns asked him not to discuss, Winslow said Wednesday he's treating it like another game.

"It's really just another team," said Winslow, who played in just one preseason game — and one just one series in that one. "It's a blessing to be here. It's where I want to be, and I'm fortunate.

"Everything that went on up there with Cleveland was a growing process for me. I really grew up and matured. It was hard up there because we weren't winning a lot, and it was just frustrating at times. But I'm here now, and I'm having fun."

According to Morris, nobody in Tampa Bay's locker room — or anywhere for that matter — has questioned Winslow's passion for the game or willingness to do whatever it takes to win.

"I don't think a lot of our guys look at him as trying to get over or not wanting to come to training camp or not wanting to be able to do something," Morris said.

"I think they know it's a legit deal. I think most of them know if he could go out there and practice twice a day, he would."

Quite simply, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder might be the best player on the Bucs roster. He's too fast to be covered by linebackers and too physical for most cornerbacks and safeties.

Morris watched a lot of tape of Winslow before the Bucs traded for him but was even more amazed by his supple hands and body control after he arrived.

"When you see some of that stuff in practice — the guy jumps up somewhere near the goal post and grabs it near the net and land down inbounds and taps his feet down in front of you — that's pretty impressive," Morris said.

Quarterback Josh Freeman knows if everything else breaks down, Winslow is always his best option.

"It might not be the conventional way, but Kellen is going to get open," Freeman said. "He's going to be where he needs to be when he needs to be there. He brings such a passion, such intensity to the game. He can't help but lift people around him."

Winslow is shy away from the field and mostly a homebody. No matter how hard he tries to run from the past, something like Sunday's opponent provides another reminder.

"When he's out on the practice field … he goes as hard and as fast as just about anybody that I've coached," Morris said.

And no matter what anybody says, Winslow can't wait to turn the Browns' eyes blue Sunday.

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow receives utmost security 09/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 7:30am]
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