Jamie Winborn's determination is about to pay off today.
The veteran linebacker had to wonder whether or not he had run out of opportunities in the NFL after he had been released twice last season before joining the Tennessee Titans for the final two games of the 2009 season.
But when the Titans defense takes the field today against the Oakland Raiders, Winborn is likely to be among the starters, alongside Stephen Tulloch and Will Witherspoon, in Tennessee's revamped linebacker corps that will be missing the suspended Gerald McRath.
For Winborn, it has been a long climb back since he started 11 games for the Denver Broncos in 2008.
“I got released in Denver, and then I went to training camp with Atlanta, and that didn't work out, and then I signed with the Houston Texans, and they released me after two weeks. Then I signed here. It's been a long haul,” Winborn said.
Winborn, of course, is also a key on most of the Titans' special teams as well, having played that role in whole or part throughout his nine-year NFL career. Whether on special teams or defense, Winborn said he has remained confident in his abilities despite the setbacks.
“This is a game I want to play. I love being in the locker room with these guys, and I know I can still play the game. I know that's not a question to me,” he said.
When the former Vanderbilt star signed with the Titans after Keith Bulluck's injury last year, he made sure he got a two-year deal after hooking on so late last season.
“These guys have been awesome to me. They threw me right in the mix. My whole thing was coming here was I wanted another year. I wanted an opportunity to go through OTAs and learn the defense as well as anybody else knows it. They stuck to their word, and here we are,” Winborn said.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher has been pleased with Winborn's dedication and contributions as well.
“Jamie came in and participated in the offseason program, was here every day, learned the defense and has been playing well for us,” Fisher said. “He’s been making quite a few plays on special teams considering the number of years he’s had in the league and he takes an enthusiastic approach not only to his defense but also his special teams.”
For Winborn, it was really all about opportunity and waiting for the right one.
“There's always an opportunity there, and when it comes, you just have to make the best of it. I've always made the best of it when the opportunity has been there,” he said. “The last couple of years, that really wasn't an opportunity. I was just brought in to fill a space during training camp, and that puts you behind. And I get to another team, and it doesn't work out there. But I take everything and learn something.”
After six NFL stops plus camp with the Falcons a year ago, what Winborn learned was perseverance and to be ready to pounce when a real chance to play presented itself.
“I was a little older in my career, and I felt like I at least deserved at least respect. Don't bring me in if you're not really going to give me an opportunity,” Winborn said. “I've got kids and a wife and a family. So if you're not going to give me an honest opportunity, let's not waste each other's time, because I take this real seriously.”
Seriously enough to be in the starting lineup for the Titans opener.