A source told the NFL's Ian Rapoport this afternoon that Kellen Winslow had been granted a release after he asked the team for one. While the release of a tight end is not completely surprising given the Patriots' tendancy to hoard the position like some feral cats or a sink full of dirty cereal bowls, the release of this particular tight end is somewhat of a shock. Out of all the rostered tight ends, Winslow's skillset most closely resembled that of Aaron Hernandez, a serviceable stopgap to make the hit of missing #81 while he rehabilitates from a high ankle sprain a little more bearable. There are two trains of thought here:
1) Hernandez' recovery is coming along faster than expected.
While it was assumed that Hernandez would miss at least four weeks with the high ankle sprain, he was spotted this week in the locker room without a noticeable limp. A recovery that leans on the shorter side of the fence for the type of injury Hernandez sustained is not that unreasonable for a 22-year-old with a relatively clean bumps-and-bruises slate. The Patriots also appear to have gotten healthier on the TE front with Daniel Fells' name disappearing from Wednesday's injury report. The coaching staff could envision a Hernandez return for the Oct. 7 match against the Broncos, and are comfortable gameplanning more three-receiver sets for the Bills (like we saw last week against the Ravens) where Rob Gronkowski sees the majority of the snaps.
2) Winslow is in an incredible amount of pain.
It's no secret that Winslow's knee has never quite been the same after a 2006 motorcycle accident and subsequent multiple surgeries. Shalise Manza Young said just as much:
he told reporters when he signed here that he was "always" in pain when he played & took pride in not missing games despite the pain— shalise manza young (@shalisemyoung) September 27, 2012
This signing may have had the possibility to extend beyond Hernandez' eventual return, but Winslow's career could be reaching its pain-filled conclusion following his release from the Seahawks and a short stint with the Patriots in which he recorded just one catch. An unfortunate turn of events if this is indeed the case for the son of a Hall of Famer and the sixth overall pick in 2004.