With the departure of tight end John Gilmore this offseason, the Buccaneers became an even younger group at that position. Former Hurricane Kellen Winslow is the exception and as the elder statesman of the group, the eighth-year veteran has impressed his coaches and teammates with his training camp thus far and is providing valuable leadership for the youngsters to look up to.
Second-year player Ryan Purvis, who had five receptions for 38 yards last season, suddenly finds himself as the teams second-most experienced tight end.
“Its crazy to come in and be with guys in their seventh and eighth years [Winslow, Gilmore and Jeramy Stevens] and then suddenly I’m the second oldest guy on the roster,” Purvis said. “But that is the life of an undrafted free agent and I’m battling everyday for my job. I’m taking the same approach I take each training camp. I come out here, do what I can do and put good stuff on tape and kind of let the cards fall where they may.”
Purvis knows there is no better example to pattern his game and work ethic to than No. 82.
“He has helped with my game tremendously,” Purvis said. “He is meticulous in everything he does. Constantly working on his game. Everything he does is geared towards being a better player. Being in the presence of someone like that, it can only make you better. It is a credit to the type of guy he is. The time he puts in, you’d be an idiot not to watch and try and emulate some of the stuff he does.”
The former Boston College Eagle likes what he has seen so far from the group of tight ends but says it’s too early to tell much from his teammates.
“We have only been together for a few days,” Purvis said. “It is normally the offseason that you get to see everybody and know everybody. And then when you put the pads on you get to see what kind of football player they are. But it has been a weird offseason and we are still getting to know each other and who we are as football players. Coach always says he isn’t coaching effort. It is still early, we haven’t even had our first training camp to really see who we are as a unit.”
Second-year player Nathan Overbay, who ended last season on the practice squad, has many goals in this year’s training camp, but like Purvis he feels he has a great example to look up to.
“I feel good, you can always improve,” Overbay said. “Kellen [Winslow] has been helping me a lot. I feel good right now. My blocking is coming along. My route running needs a little more help.
“I was a rookie last year, nothing really special. But this year I want to be a guy that they can look to. Mainly blocking was something I wanted to improve on in camp. I’m too big to not be a good blocker. I need to be able to beat safeties, to beat tight ends.
“[Winslow] is one of a kind really. He can do anything at any time. You are just like wow, when you watch him play. I took in a lot last year on the practice squad, so I got to watch him a lot. I have learned a lot from him. His hands are the best I have ever seen. His route running is amazing and he works like he is a rookie. Learning from that guy is unbelievable. He is a future Hall-of –Famer. Every chance I get I try and learn from him.”
Tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts is just as impressed as his young players when watching Winslow in camp so far.
“In my five seasons with him, he is having a tremendous training camp,” Roberts said. “He has looked great, made every day and looks primed to do some great things this year.
“I think this offseason was good for him. He’s a Dad now and was able to spend a lot of time at home. He is moving really well. His health is what it is. He is going to play through whatever he has. He looks good and he has been good to the young guys and is teaching them the things that he knows. He has been a real treat.”
Roberts commented on the special relationship Winslow and Josh Freeman have developed the past two seasons.
“It is important for all those guys to build a relationship with Josh,” Roberts said. “But Josh and Kellen have their own little relationship. Josh and Kellen spent some time in the offseason together. But you can tell they have spent some time and talked through some things. Before we could even get to coach them they had already deciphered things.”
Roberts, even with rookie Luke Stocker who has been unable to practice with a hip injury, knows his group is young but talented.
“It’s going to be a competition all the way to the end with these guys,” Roberts said. “They are a young, athletic and exciting group of guys and they are doing some good stuff out here.”