FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Kellen Winslow is well aware of the concerns surrounding his health.
In fact, during a rare moment of candor Thursday, the newest member of the New England Patriots even admitted to playing through pain in his right knee. Winslow, however, did not miss a game the last three years, something he was quick to proudly point out.
“It’s a question every year,” he said. “The thing I concentrate on is not missing games because then there’s nothing to hold against me. If I was missing games every year or something like that, it would be true.”
After officially announcing the signing of the 29-year-old tight end Wednesday, the Patriots are counting on Winslow to stay healthy enough to fill the void left when tight end Aaron Hernandez suffered an ankle injury on New England’s third offensive play of its 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
One of the Patriots’ most dynamic offensive weapons, Hernandez is expected to be sidelined for at least a month.
“He’s probably one of the most versatile tight ends in the game, if not the most,” Winslow said. “He goes all around the field, he can play any position. So, he’s very versatile in what he does and he’s smart. He’s a very good player.
“It’s going to take me a while to catch up to where he’s at.”
The sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft, Winslow himself had trouble staying on the field with the Cleveland Browns, playing in just two games his rookie season due to a broken right fibula, and then missed the entire 2005 campaign after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a motorcycle accident.
Following a Pro Bowl season with the Browns in 2007, he flourished during three years in Tampa Bay, where he averaged nearly 73 catches, 792 yards and four touchdowns a season.
Winslow was traded to Seattle in May and was expected to play a pivotal role with Seahawks, but was abruptly released on Sept. 1.
“I think every day you have to prove yourself,” he said. “With what happened in Seattle, I can’t say much about what happened. It is what it is and I have to move on.”
A few teams expressed interest in the 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end, including New England (1-1), which brought him in for a visit a couple of weeks ago.
“It was a good fit,” Winslow said. “I’ve never been in this type of situation, but a situation arose where Aaron got hurt and we’re kind of similar. So, I thought I could come in here and help out.”
Whether or not Winslow plays Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens (1-1) remains to be seen. Regardless, he is excited about lining up alongside Pro Bowl standout Rob Gronkowski in the Patriots’ potent two-tight end set.
“It’s how tight ends should be used,” he said, “and they do a good job.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady met Winslow for the first time Wednesday before the two took the practice field together. Winslow has been studying strategy ever since.
“I’ve been in the playbook just nonstop,” he said. “But he’s Tom Brady. I’ve got a lot of work to catch up and get on the same page as these guys.
“What they’re doing here, the volume of the playbook is a lot. It’s going to take some time to get used to. But at the end of the day, football’s football. It’s just verbiage and getting used to the calls, getting used to Tom’s cadence and just knowing not just what I have, but what everybody has, because people switch positions here.”
Coach Bill Belichick admittedly doesn’t know much about Winslow. All he knows is that there’s a spot open, and this veteran comes with a resume, if nothing else.
“I’ve never coached him before, don’t have any background with him,” Belichick said. “But we feel like he might have a chance to help us, so that’s why he’s here.”
Winslow is relishing the opportunity, too.
“With coach, he’s one of the best of all time. I’m not surprised by anything that’s going on here,” he said. “They do things and they practice and obviously play the game like you’re supposed to. Teams model themselves after the Patriots.
“I’m not shocked by anything. That’s why they win Super Bowls around here.”
NOTES: The Patriots haven’t lost consecutive games since Oct. 30-Nov. 6 of last season, when they fell to the Steelers (25-17) and Giants (24-20). … Hernandez had six receptions for 57 yards at the time of his injury.