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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Kellen Winslow has been staying in playing shape since his brief stint with the New England Patriots in 2012, but the phone hadn't been ringing and the wait was getting increasingly hard.
Finally on Saturday, Winslow got a call from the New York Jets asking him to come in for a three-day tryout during the team's mandatory minicamp. On Monday, Winslow was on a plane and Tuesday he was catching balls from quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.
"It was hard, very hard," Winslow said of his hiatus from the NFL. "This is a situation I've never gone through, and very hard -- probably one of the hardest things I've ever gone through. You don't know what your future holds. This is my dream and when it's taken away like that, it's hard."
The tight end just has a tryout, less traction than most have in a league where few have any kind of job stability, especially given Winslow's status as a former No. 6 overall draft pick in 2004. He signed a six-year deal with the Cleveland Browns with a $16.5 million signing bonus. Winslow was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2007, and in 2009 was traded to Tampa Bay. When Greg Schiano was hired, Winslow said, the new coach wanted to bring in his own guys.
"I have years left," Winslow said. "My last year was 2011, I caught 75 balls. I've been productive. It's just the NFL, it's how it goes sometimes. You get cut, you get traded and you can't do anything about it. It's out of my control, you know?"
Winslow, 29, has had trouble with his knees, but asked about that after his first practice with the Jets, said it wasn't an issue.
"I'm healthy," Winslow said.
He seemed a bit slow on some plays, but that could have as much to do with about 24 hours with the playbook. He speculated that health issues weren't necessarily what was keeping teams from calling.
"A lot of guys want to go young so they can mold them," Winslow said. "A lot of it has to do with money."
Winslow, who said he is at home in the West Coast-style offense preferred by new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, caught as least one ball from both Sanchez and Smith. The Jets could use Winslow after losing Dustin Keller to Miami in free agency. Jeff Cumberland is the top tight end on the roster, coach Rex Ryan said on Tuesday, with Konrad Reuland and Hayden Smith also available.
Winslow has a window to show what he can do, with many in the Jets wide receiver corps injured. Second-year receiver Stephen Hill practiced for the first few times since having knee surgery last season and said there was no swelling after practice.
Santonio Holmes, still recovering from foot surgery, worked on the sidelines. Jeremy Kerley said his heel wasn't bothering him and practiced fully.
"I just made a bad cut earlier in OTAs and I didn't want to make it worse," Kerley said.
Winslow has two more days to convince the Jets coaches that he would be a good fit in Florham Park, and said he already has a built-in relationship with Ryan.
"Rex and I used to go at it when he was at the Ravens and he's an awesome coach, man," Winslow said. "One of the best defensive coaches in the league."
If Winslow can't catch on with New York, he knows that uncertainty is out there waiting for him.
"There's a lot of guys, great players not picked up right now," Winslow said. "I'm lucky to get a call and I'm real grateful."