Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News
When he’s done playing football, Kellen Winslow wants to try his hand at racing.
The Jets convoy was on the move. The team was headed from its residential end of the SUNY Cortland campus back to the football fields across the road for its walk through on its last Sunday in upstate New York. First came Gang Green’s police escort, then a school bus filled with players, followed by another and another. Finally, the fifth and final vehicle made its way in through the gates, carrying a piece of luggage the team would prefer to be handled with care: Kellen Winslow. That trailer car was the tight end’s Venge bicycle, with Winslow peddling in the buses’ wake.
Winslow on his bike became part of the routine in Cortland. When other players drove, Winslow biked. When other players walked, Winslow biked. And roughly every other day, when other players practiced, Winslow biked.
“Well it just helps keeps my muscles activated,” Winslow, 30, said. “Through all the surgeries and stuff, the staph infection (in 2008), your muscles shut off. So I just have to keep them activated, that’s why I ride the bike all the time.”
The Tour de France becomes something of a tired joke around football training camps: it’s a term used to describe the group of injured players rehabbing on the bikes during practices. It’s not an enviable position to be in: stationary cycling off to the side while other players try to take their jobs.
For Winslow, the Tour de France was his inspiration. It was watching riders make their way up and down French hills that made him want to try cycling. That’s what legs on an athlete ought to look like, he thought when he first watched the race on TV.
“It takes a while, for you to get any definition in your legs like those guys,” he said. “It just made sense to me, when I saw them cycling. Something popped in my head — ‘oh yeah, it’s just like running…but just without the impact.'”
Kellen Winslow rides his bike to Gang Green’s practice.
And so roughly five years ago, Winslow decided to drop his offseason strength training regimen and opt for a cycling plan instead. An hour-and-a-half to two-hour ride per day in San Diego where he lives, coupled with 55 pushups per day and some sit-ups, were the best way to stay in shape, he found. When he’s done playing football, Winslow wants to try his hand at racing. Nothing too serious, he said quickly, but he wants to give it a shot.
He took part in the lifting sessions in Cortland, but at a lighter pace than most of his teammates. It doesn’t look like the lack of a bench press is hurting him much, and Winslow thinks that at his position, strength is overrated. Other tight ends have more of a hybrid role of blocking and pass-catching, but Winslow sees himself essentially as a pure receiver, so he values quickness and flexibility above muscle mass.
Winslow, a minicamp tryout, has quickly vaulted himself into a valuable skill position player on a team that is starved for receiving talent.
It’s because of his talent and age that the Jets have put Winslow on what Ryan terms the “pitch count.” He practices only some days, following a similar plan that worked successfully with LaRon Landry last season. But instead of riding the stationary bikes, Winslow grabs his own bicycle and clips it in next to his teammates. The tight end explained that stationary bikes coast when the peddle is on its way back up; his clipped in bike has resistance throughout the full revolution of the peddle, so that it better simulates one of his long rides from the offseason.
“(I) fell in love with it,” Winslow said of his cycling. “It challenged me in ways I never knew.”