ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- George Winn has had problems with his helmet before, to the point in college where Cincinnati had to alter his chin strap.
See, the way Winn runs and how his helmet was attached to his head was not conducive to it staying on. So he’d lose his helmet a lot -- enough that the Bearcats had to insert screws instead of snaps to make sure the thing stayed on.
It is an aftereffect of Winn’s style: aggressive. Explosive. Downhill. See a hole, run at the hole. There’s not much crafty with Winn’s running form, just pure power rolling at defenders 215 pounds at a time. And the helmet has taken a brunt of the damage.
“I hadn’t actually cracked [a helmet],” Winn said Monday. “I’ve torn the decals all the way off my helmet before, but I haven’t cracked one before.”
He recalled one particular Bearcats game where afterward, half of the ‘C’ on the helmet had disappeared. This running style has been one of the more noticeable things during Detroit Lions training camp thus far, from running over Jerome Couplin in practice one day to flattening another defender on another day.
It’s a style that carried over to games as well, as he flipped over during the preseason opener against Cleveland and then was hit in mid-air against Oakland. It’s a style leading to 321 carries in college for 1,710 yards and 13 touchdowns. It’s a style also earning him a multitude of nicknames from his time at University of Detroit Jesuit High School to Cincinnati and now with the Lions.
There’s Hammerhead and Dump truck and Ox and Winn Train, all fairly accurate descriptions of the way he has run the ball. As far as a favorite? He doesn’t have one.
“I just like to be here,” Winn said. “So whatever you want to call me.”
If he continues to play as he has, he might be called a member of the Detroit Lions for longer than just training camp. Winn has been one of the more aggressive movers up the depth chart through the first half of the preseason as he battles Mikel Leshoure for a spot on the 53-man roster or, in Winn’s case, a spot on the Lions’ practice squad.
Detroit’s coaches have noticed, too. He saw time with the second-team offense against Oakland and more importantly for his roster chances, was on the first unit on both kick coverage and kick return. On kick coverage, where he sounded a little frustrated with his play Monday, he made two tackles and was often the first player down the field.
“We put him on special teams so we could see how he would function within that realm,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Because at that particular position and because of where you line up as a running back and where you are on the depth chart, that you’re going to have to make strong contributions in the special-teams area in order to be a guy that will have an opportunity to hang around and make this team.
“That’s one of the reasons why we put him in this position, to see how he would do and how he would react and he performed well.”
Caldwell cautioned the same thing he has about a lot of his players throughout camp – especially ones in legitimate roster competitions. One game won’t be a massive indicator of making a team. Neither will two.
But so far, other than a fumble against Cleveland, Winn has played well enough to at least earn significant consideration two weeks from now when Detroit’s coaches have to make final roster decisions.
And considering his career to date – six teams in one season – that’s about all he can hope for, to use his running style to make him extremely difficult to cut.