With Kellen Winslow Jr., Bucs Locker Room Was a ‘Festering Wound’
For once, Tampa Bay Bucs tight end Kellen Winslow and the team’s new new coaching staff are on the same page: Winslow won’t be playing for the Bucs anymore – and that’s good news for both parties.
The Winslow talk began Monday morning when he revealed in an XM Radio interview that the Bucs no longer want him on the team, and will attempt to trade him. His decision not to participate in the first week of offseason workouts or train at One Buc Place did not sit well with new head coach Greg Schiano, who is in a hurry to turn around the 4-12 team that lost the last 10 games of the season.
With Winslow’s days with the team are numbered, rumors are swirling that the Bucs will be pursuing free agent tight end and former Indianapolis Colt standout Dallas Clark. Formerly one of Peyton Mannings favorite targets, Clark worked out for the Bucs last week and could be signed as early as this week, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Justin Pawlowski was joined today on The Commish by former Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Jerry Wunsch. Between 1999 and 2001, Wunsch started 45 games for the Bucs and also had some invaluable information about the state of the team’s locker room.
“What’s going on in the Bucs locker room is there’s been a festering wound growing for a long time. What Greg is trying to do is clean out that wound,” Wunsch said.
There’s no denying that Winslow has been an important part of the Buccaneer offense, catching 218 passes over the past three seasons. As Schiano and the organization try to move forward, the overall health of the locker room and the team as a whole is much more important than the prowess of only one player.
“Winslow hasn’t shown Greg that he wants the job,” Wunsch said. “Winslow is a talented athlete, but that only takes you so far.”
The question now is who can come close to matching Winslow’s on-field production. Clark is an intriguing possibility. He caught 100 passes for 1,106 yards with 10 touchdowns in 2009 and totaled nearly 5,000 receiving yards in nine years with the Colts. But injuries in both 2010 and 2011 hampered his productivity, as did the absence of Manning last season. The Bucs have a plethora of young tight ends on the roster who could compete for playing time, such as Luke Stocker and Zack Pianalto, but Tampa Bay clearly is looking for a veteran, proven presence at the key position.
The replacement for Winslow ultimately may not match his production with the Bucs. But Schiano clearly would rather have a player who fits in with his disciplined program and is willing to show the sense of urgency he and his staff are demanding.