He's the son of a Pro Football Hall of Famer, a former first-round draft pick, and not yet 30 years old. Yet, until this week, Kellen Winslow Jr. was out of work.
Why? Because of lingering questions about his right leg.
In 2004, just two games into his rookie season, Winslow broke his right fibula. Less than a year later, while riding his motorcycle, his struck a curb, was thrown from the bike, and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Winslow still feels the effects of those injuries today.
"Yeah. Yeah, but… it doesn't matter," he responded bluntly when asked if he plays in a lot of pain.
"It's a question every year. The thing I concentrate on is not missing games, because then there's nothing to hold against me… I think every day you have to prove yourself."
Since Winslow returned to NFL action in 2006, he has "willed" himself to play as many games as he has in spite of the constant pain. Winslow appeared in all 16 regular season games in '06 for Cleveland, the team that drafted him sixth overall. He has appeared in 14, eight, 14, 11, and 15 games each of the past five seasons, the last three of which were with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 29-year-old was traded to Seattle this past offseason, but was cut by the Seahawks on Sept. 1.
He now finds himself in New England because of an ankle injury that could sideline Aaron Hernandez indefinitely.
"It was a good fit," Winslow explained about choosing the Patriots over a number of other teams that had expressed interest. "I've never been in this type of situation, but… Aaron got hurt, and we're kind of similar. I thought I could come in here and help out."
"There are some similarities there [with Hernandez]. He's probably one of the most versatile tight ends in the game, if not the most. He goes all around the field, can play any position. He's very versatile in what he does, and he's smart."
The Patriots seem to feel that Winslow is smart enough and physically capable of filling the Hernandez role, but how much will Winslow be able to do this Sunday night against Baltimore?
"We'll see," he said. "It's just my job to make plays when it comes to me… Just a lot of work to be done. Just trying to get the offense down and finding my way."
Winslow went on to say he chose New England because the Patriots show "how tight ends should be used." He also said he prides himself on being a versatile tight end in the Hernandez mold, but quickly added that, "it's going to take me a while to catch up to where he's at."
Winslow left the Browns right before Brian Daboll, the former Patriots assistant, took over as offensive coordinator in 2009, so, the tight end has no previous experience in anything resembling the Patriots offense, which could flatten his learning curve somewhat – a point he seemed to acknowledge.
"At the end of the day, football is football," Winslow remarked. "What they're doing here, the volume of the playbook is a lot. It's going to take some time to get used to. It's verbiage and getting used to the calls and getting used to Tom [Brady]'s cadence, and knowing not just what I have, but what everybody has, because people switch positions here… I've been in the playbook nonstop."
With comments like those, he might be trying to manage the expectations of others for him, but when asked what his expectations for himself were, Winslow was unequivocal.
"Just make plays."
And as for that famous, eponymous father of his, Winslow said the former San Diego Chargers great embraces his off-the-field role these days.
"He's my dad. He's not the overbearing type of football dad guy," the younger Winslow revealed. "He's just my dad."
For details about today's Patriots practice and more locker room tidbits, please visit the PFW blog.