Check with Bucsblitz.com throughout training camp for the best coverage of the top competitions and stories of camp. Periodically, we’ll give you the chance to read what players have to say about camp, in their own words. Unfiltered and unedited, it’s your chance to read what the players have to say in their most unguarded moments. Click on the player’s name below to get exclusive content:
QB Luke McCown.
RB Carnell Williams
DE Jimmy Wilkerson
QB Byron Leftwich
DT Roy Miller
Training camp, if you’ve never covered it, is eminently predictable. Around the first week, every team generates a big headline, and it usually comes in three types — a nobody comes out of nowhere to impress, a veteran leaves camp with a big injury or a coach “calls out” a player during a workout.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got No. 3 on Thursday, nearly a week into camp. If you selected head coach Raheem Morris to call out TE Kellen Winslow in your office pool, congrats. You’re a winner.
The humor I found in this, partly, was how the story was treated. Pewter Report filed a short story that was picked up by several difference national sources. The headline read “Bucs HC calls out Winslow” at the top (PR’s report read the same way). The St. Pete Times’ headline was more muted, as it read that the team wanted Winslow to “stay off the emotional roller coaster.”
The quote — mingled into a general quote about practice — is massive and novelesqe by coaching standards. Here’s the part you’re concerned about:
"It was a good practice because you had a chance to go out there and see our mentality. Today, you saw a little bit of weakness as far as the mentality. We rode the emotional rollercoaster a little bit. I'll give you an example: Kellen Winslow…and we already talked about this so there's no talking behind my team's back or worrying about throwing anybody under the bus. But Kellen Winslow catches a pass, he's hyped up, he gets the crowd going, he can throw it down behind his back, spin it, get Flip [Jermaine Phillips] going, get the people around him riled up. But then he drops one, puts his head down and walks back to the huddle. That's the part of riding the emotional rollercoaster that we don't want to do. You've got to be the same. You've got to remain unwavered no matter what, no matter what's going on around you, your surroundings. You need somebody to pick him up. Nobody on our team should let him drop his head and he shouldn't think about dropping his head.”
It goes on for another 200 words after that. Whew! Never knew Morris was so long-winded.
That quote in itself means absolutely nothing. A head coach tells a player during a workout to keep their emotions in check and stay on an even keel. Now that’s breaking news.
It becomes news because it’s Kellen Winslow, a highly-paid tight end who has been known more for his mouth and his sense of entitlement in his NFL career than for catches. So we latch onto it like a leech because, well, if you’ve never covered training camp, you have no idea how boring it gets after week one. For that reason, everything in camp gets magnified, especially since we have blogs, video reports and a 24-hour news cycle.
It’s not like Winslow went off on a player or coach in practice. If anything, he directed his anger and frustration inward. And that’s OK with me, so long as it doesn’t affect Winslow’s work. That’s the point Morris was trying to make.
There was one more part to this quote, which the Buccaneers edited from their daily quote sheet. Both PR and the Times carried the quote, also from Morris:
"Oh, he's definitely talented, but I'm also starting to get an idea of the problems he's had," said Morris. "But I think it's the first time anyone has ever addressed him, talked to him about it. He understands, he looks me in the eye, I look him in the eye and that's it — my bad. If he does something good, I'll tell him my bad. Sometimes his emotional energy is going to give us a lift and other times it hurts. He's got to know when it's the right time.
"I don't know if it is a problem. This is a high-intense, angry man driven game. He needs to figure it out, and he will. I know he will. That's why he's a Buc."
To me, this is the more interesting part of the story and closer to the “calling out” that PR described. Typically, head coaches will avoid talking about, or even referencing a player’s past problems, with the media, especially early in the player’s tenure. Morris and other coaches are still building a relationship with Winslow and they don’t want to rock the boat.
Which is why I find the quote “I’m also starting to get an idea of the problems he’s had” so interesting. Where’s the follow-up question? What is Morris seeing? Is it something that could be detrimental to the team down the line? Does he see more problems in the future?
THAT’S the story right there. Less than a week into camp Morris is talking about the problems Winslow has had in the past, in the context of current behavior. Remember that the Bucs spent two draft picks on this guys and gave him a contract extension shortly after acquiring him. They’re committed. They’re locked in. I’m certain Morris and GM Mark Dominik made absolutely certain Winslow was committed to being an upright citizen.
And yet, a week later, we’re talking about it. Granted, this is minor behavior. But taking every little detail of training camp and putting it under a microscope is the modus operandi of NFL coverage these days. So expect more of it.
I mean, what did you expect? It’s Kellen Winslow. Tigers don’t change their stripes overnight. Heck, sometimes, they don’t change at all.
And the media will cover it like a blanket until next month.