Kellen Winslow Jr. chats with The Scores Report

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Kellen Winslow (82) runs for a 41-yard touchdown reception against the Washington Redskins during the fourth quarter at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on December 12, 2010. The Buccaneers defeated the Redskins 17-16. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Quick, name the leading receiver on the Bucs last year. Nope, it wasn’t impressive rookie Mike Williams and for those who said Joey Galloway, you’ve just embarrassed yourself.

It was none other than tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who was one of the many players that helped transform the Bucs from a 3-13 team in 2009 to a 10-6 playoff contender in 2010. Due to the tough of the Super Bowl champion Packers the final two weeks, Tampa Bay missed the postseason but there’s no doubt the Bucs are a team to be reckoned with in the NFC.

Even though he’s concentrating on becoming a father any day now, Kellen took the time to chat with us recently about the Bucs’ resurgence, what he thought the key was to Josh Freeman’s development this past year and what his take is on the lack of progress in the CBA discussions. He also talked about his role in the Bucs’ offense and what he thinks the team needs to get over the hump. As we expected, he didn’t disappoint with his answers.

For more on Kellen, check out his official website, which has a bio, photos and more.

The Scores Report: Hey Kellen, how are you?

Kellen Winslow: Hey, how’s it going, man?

TSR: Real good! How’s your offseason going?

KW: Good. I’m just chilling and having a great time.

TSR: Did you enjoy the Super Bowl?

KW: Yeah, it was real good.

TSR: Did you end up going to any of the parties or the game?

KW: Nah, I don’t go. I don’t go unless we go, you know?

TSR: (Laughs) Makes sense. What did you think of your fellow NFC counterparts, the Packers?

KW: It was a good win for them. I was kind of surprised that the Steelers didn’t show up like I thought they would, you know?

TSR: Yeah, I think a lot of people were surprised, especially considering they’re a veteran-led team.

KW: Right.

TSR: So are you working with a relatively clean bill of health this offseason or are you rehabbing anything?

KW: No, I’m good this offseason. I’ve been feeling okay and I’ve been cycling. I found out that that keeps my knee real strong so I’ve just been doing that.

TSR: What was the key to the Bucs’ one-year turn around? Because you guys had a really young team both years, but in 2010 things seemed to take off and you were able to put together a winning season.

KW: You know what? I just think it had to do with the second year. People are growing. Raheem [Morris]…you know, Raheem is obviously our leader. People are following him, they’re getting used to playing with each other and just going out and executing on game day. That’s all it pretty much is.

TSR: You get to work with him every day so I’m wondering what your take is on Josh Freeman. What did you see in him specifically this year that you didn’t see his rookie year?

KW: Just experience, you know, experience playing. I think he got into the last six games in his first year and that was kind of his rookie experience. He didn’t play his full rookie season so the second year, he was still a rookie in terms of game experience. But he did awesome. He had a couple of games where he didn’t play like he wanted to but who doesn’t? We couldn’t have asked for more from him and he played phenomenal.

TSR: You just wrapped up your seventh season in the NFL. Besides what it takes physically to get ready each year, what do you do in the offseason to mentally prepare yourself for a new season? What does a veteran tight end in the NFL do to get himself ready when he’s already played seven years in the league?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Kellen Winslow (82) celebrates a 41-yard touchdown reception against the Washington Redskins during the fourth quarter at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on December 12, 2010. The Buccaneers defeated the Redskins 17-16. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

KW: You know, I watch a ton of film. I watch, well, I watch myself but I watch other tight ends as well. I’ll watch [Antonio] Gates, I’ll watch Tony Gonzalez and I’ll watch Jason Witten. I think those are the three main guys I’ll watch just to learn how they block, or how they use their bodies to catch the ball and what moves they do. So yeah, I would say watching a lot of film of tight ends.

TSR: Well you must enjoy playing in the same division as Gonzalez because you get to see him twice a year.

KW: Yeah, especially him because I do see him twice a year and we play the same teams. I probably watch him the most. Myself, I like to read a lot of coverages. I like to know exactly the front they’re in, the coverage behind it, what blitz is coming, so I can envision it and go make the play.

TSR: How do you feel that the tight end position is evolving? Because there still seems to be a mix of guys that can block and guys that can catch, but in your opinion are there more and more guys that can do both nowadays?

KW: Yeah, there’s still a mix of tight ends though. You got a guy like Gates who is a very good receiving tight end. Tony, he does his fair share of blocking but he’s also a very good receiving tight end. A guy like Witten really has no weakness. I wouldn’t pick my routes from him as I would Gates or Tony Gonzalez, but Witten can do it all. But there are many different tight ends that you can learn from. You know, Zach Miller is a great, solid blocking tight end and a receiving tight end. So I think it’s all about what you want and what the teams need out of the position. There are tight ends everywhere now, you know?

TSR: Right, and that’s why I was asking. You take a team like the Patriots who nabbed two tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the draft last year and used them both. I mean, once Bill Belichick traded Randy Moss he played to his strengths, which was at tight end. So I was just wondering if you saw the position evolving.

KW: Yeah, I do. I think it’s more of a receiving position nowadays and you can have two now. I mean, I think you could have two on every team. I do, I think the position and the game is evolving where you can have two good ones on every team.

TSR: The Bucs competed for a division title last year but came up just short. What’s the one thing that will get you guys over the hump?

KW: Honestly, I think the thing that will get us over the hump is that we need a little more pass rush – a little more pressure on the quarterback. Our defensive backfield is pretty good, our linebacker corps is pretty good, but I just think we’re a little young on the defensive line. But I would say that’s about it, man. We’re pretty loaded besides that.

TSR: I like to ask veteran players this question because they can usually spot what young players have what it takes to become future stars. So give me two players on either side of the ball that could become future stars for the Bucs. Everyone has a good idea about Mike Williams, but who else?

KW: Arrelious Benn. He’s going to be another good player. You know, he was a rookie last year but he made some plays for us late in the season. I think he’s going to be a great player.

TSR: Good call. He was real good at Illinois and I think if he had more consistent quarterback play when he was there he would have been a first rounder.

KW: Yeah, definitely. And the other one…Kareem Huggins. He’s been injured the last two years, but he’s a great player. He just needs to stay healthy and he’s going to be a great one.

TSR: You’ve led the Bucs in receptions the last two years but do you see your role expanding in the offense next year or do you think it’ll stay steady?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Kellen Winslow (82) celebrates a 41-yard touchdown reception against the Washington Redskins during the fourth quarter at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on December 12, 2010. The Buccaneers defeated the Redskins 17-16. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

KW: No, I need to be more involved in the offense. You know, it’s something I’ve been patient with but my goal every year is to catch 100 balls and get 1,000 yards, or at least one or the other. It just hasn’t happened yet. I had 66 this year and 700 yards or something like that and it’s just not what I’m used to. You know, obviously I want the ball more and it’s just about timing between Freeman and I, and just getting the opportunities to go make plays. I can’t wait [for next season].

TSR: I’d be remised if I didn’t ask you about the CBA discussions and what your take is on that situation. Do you think they’ll be a season next year? As a fan I’m worried, so I’m sure as a player you must be as well.

KW: Yeah. Personally, I think a lockout is going to happen but I don’t think they’ll let it get to the season. It would be awful if there were no football. Guys would have to get second jobs and join the real world. (Laughs)

TSR: Definitely. And it ain’t pretty in the real world, let me tell you.

KW: (Laughs)

TSR: Tell me about your website and what’s new with that.

KW: Not much new yet, but I encourage people to check out my bio and photos. I plan on supporting the Plant City Eagles again and making sure they have the opportunity to play. [Editor’s Note: Kellen donated time and money last May to help the Eagles when helmets, jerseys and shoulder pads were stolen from a storage building/concession stand. You can read about the story here.]

TSR: That’s great.

KW: Yeah. Oh, we have a baby coming, too.

TSR: Wow, congratulations!

KW: Thank you, thank you, man. Yeah, so I’ve just trying to concentrate on that because she’s due any day now.

TSR: So you know it’s a girl?

KW: No, it’s a boy.

TSR: Oh, your wife is due any day now. Now it makes sense…

KW: Yeah, my wife is due.

TSR: That’s very exciting news. So when is he due?

KW: The due date is February 27.

TSR: That’s one day before my girlfriend’s birthday. My birthday is at the end of March so if you want to hold out…

KW: (Laughs) Man, if we wait that long something’s up!

TSR: (Laughs) No, yeah – I don’t blame you! Well Kellen, it was a pleasure to talk to you and I wish you nothing but the best with the new baby and, hopefully, a new season.

KW: Thank you, man.

TSR: Take care.

KW: You too, bye.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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