Winslow had issues even when he was Buc

by Gary Shelton on June 19, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Tuesday, 3 a.m.

He was suspicious. And combative. And bright. And distrustful. And arrogant. And nervous. And hidden deep within the shell of a famous father.

Even then, it would have taken years for a team of psychologists to figure out Kellen Winslow II.

He sat in a meeting room at One Buc, talking to Martin Fennelly and me about life. He didn't seem to have it figured out. He was, as they say, a damsel with a backyard filled with dragons.

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We talked about playing football, and about living up to his father,'s image, and about how the start of his NFL career had gotten off-the-tracks in Cleveland. We talked about Raheem Morris, his coach, and Josh Freeman, his quarterback, and his career, which was still in its infancy.

He was optimistic. He was confident. He felt he could be a great tight end.

But he wasn't.

These days, you're shaking your head in the direction of Winslow, who is charged with horrible, stomach-turning crimes. They are crimes so awful you don't want to believe they could be true of anyone, let alone a guy who grew up with the advantages that Winslow did.

Winslow stands accused of targeting five women, ages 54 to 86, with charges including forcible sodomy, rape and kidnapping.  If convicted, he will be in prison the rest of his life.

Were there clues? How could there ever be clues to such despicable behavior. If he's guilty, there will no sorrow wasted -- here or elsewhere -- in the direction of Winslow.

But there in the interview room, Winslow seemed to be another guy reaching toward another star.

The Bucs had just traded a second- and a fifth-round draft pick for Winslow. Seeing that he lasted just three years, he came overpriced. But the Bucs saw him as more of a receiver than a tight end, and they thought he could help groom Freeman.

So we talked. Winslow had serious father issues, of course. Who can blame him? His father, Kellen Sr., was one of the finest tight ends to ever play. Winslow never took a field, never caught a ball, without his father's image in his head. Winslow was obviously in awe of his father and the concept of not measuring up.

His career in the NFL had gotten off to a terrible start. He caught only five balls as a rookie -- after being the sixth-overall pick -- and missed his second season after a serious motorcycle accident. But he had three good. years after that.

After a while, Winslow looked up and asked "When are you going to ask me about 'I am a soldier?': he said, referring to an outburst when he was at the University of Miami.

"You were 18 years old," he said.

"That's right!" Winslow said. "I was a kid."

Winslow was good for a while for the Bucs. In three seasons, he caught 218 passes for 2377. yards and 12 touchdowns. He didn't leave a mark as a blocker, but for a while, he was dependable.

Then a couple o things happened. One, he dropped a two-point conversion that would have tied Green Bay at 21-21. The Packers went on to win 35-26, When Winslow was asked about the drop, he had a meltdown in the locker room.

Bad times were coming.

Then Greg Schiano, old rough-and-ready, came to town.

It should have been obvious that the two couldn't work together. Winslow was an odd duck, a guy who ran pass patterns against air in pregame warmups. Schiano was a hard-knuckle coach who wanted his players toes on the line. Winslow was loyal to his old coach, Raheem Morris. Schiano thought San Juan Hill was on the schedule.

So Winslow was shipped off. He started only three more games in the NFL.

Over the last few nights, I keep thinking about that interview. Was there a hint at the trouble? Could a smarter guy have known? Could anyone? Did anyone foresee Aaron Hernandez? Lawrence Phillips? The charges against O.J.?

Winslow is in deep trouble now. Already, some  anticipated that he will try a defense where he blames his problems on CTE. Again, I'm not buying in. There were too many issues when his troubles began.

And what about the women? They are the victims here. Winslow is charged with the attempted rape of a 71-year-old woman and an 86-year-old woman. He is charged with sodomizing a 59-year-old and with raping a 54-year-old.

It's hard. You know that a guy might be troubled. You know that he's a look-at-me guy. You understand he grew up in the shadow of his dad.

But you never think about this.


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