Arizona Cardinals' latest OL addition Brian Winters gives new meaning to 'pulling guard'
Sometimes, athletes come up with unusual training methods to help them stay sharp and in shape.
NBA superstar Michael Jordan wore strobe-light glasses during practices to help him get better accustomed to court-side camera flashes. Boxer Manny Pacquiao instructed his handlers to beat his upper body with wooden batons to simulate opponent’s punches. Heck, even Rocky Balboa used to smack sides of beef in a freezing meat cooler.
Brian Winters, the newest guard for the Arizona Cardinals, has his own unique way to stay powerful during the offseason. He puts a harness around his chest and shoulders, assumes a crawling position, and pulls trucks. Big ones. Sometimes three at a time.
His claim to fame is pulling a massive 6,800-pound Ford F-350 Dually.
“Yeah, that was a couple years ago,” Winters said. “I just wanted to do something different.”
Winters, an eight-year veteran who signed a one-year contract with the Cardinals this week as a free agent, came up with the idea while training with former Jets teammate Steve McLendon, a nose tackle who was a member of the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl-winning team this past season.
“We kept competing every week to see who can pull the most vehicles,” Winters said Tuesday during a video conference call with Arizona reporters. “I think at one point it got up to three trucks or something. It’s just another way to train instead of running every day. It’s kind of offensive line-specific training.”
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If Winters can pull a 6,800-pound pickup, imagine how he can muscle up against some of the nastier defensive linemen in the NFC West such as Aaron Donald of the Rams, Nick Bosa of the 49ers or Jarran Reed of the Seahawks.
One of the main things Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said he was eyeing while retooling the roster this offseason was bringing in physicality at key positions and Winters, who is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 320 pounds, brings it, all right. In many ways, he’s Arizona’s next version of J.R. Sweezy, who manned the right guard position for the past two years until losing the starting job late last season.
Sweezy wasn’t re-signed and Winters is seen as the heir apparent, although he will have competition from Justin Murray and/or possibly second-year pro Josh Jones. Winters has far more experience than either of those two, however, having started 88 of his 105 career games, which included seven seasons with the Jets and one last year with the Bills.
Winters started nine games at right guard for the Bills in 2020 as well as all three of Buffalo’s playoff games.
“The addition of Brian Winters excites me,” Keim said during a Zoom call earlier this week. “He’s a guy I’ve watched for years dating back to Kent State when he came out. He’s a really physical player, smart, really good quickness in a short area, and I think he does a great job in pass protection. He’s a guy who certainly will have a chance to compete.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of competition and (offensive line coach) Sean Kugler is truly committed to putting the best five out there. It’s going to be a fun offseason to see these guys compete at those different spots and see what really materializes as our best five.”
The tentative starting five projects as D.J. Humphries at left tackle, Justin Pugh at left guard, newcomer Rodney Hudson at center, Winters at right guard and Kelvin Beachum at right tackle. One of the mains reasons why Winters chose to sign with the Cardinals, it turns out, was his relationship with Beachum and Pugh.
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“Justin and I came out of the same draft class so we have a connection there just with the combine,” Winters explained. “Kelvin and I actually played together when we were in New York (with the Jets) and we spent a lot of time together on and off the field. He’s a great dude and I respect everything he’s doing and how he plays the game.
“Every time I talked to him, he said nothing but good things about here and it made the decision very easy. … Everything that’s going on with this organization, I wanted to be a part of. I’m just excited to be here.”
Winters said he isn’t taking anything for granted regarding a starting role. He said he simply plans to compete and do whatever he can to help the team return to the postseason for the first time since 2015. He likes the Cardinals’ chances, however, especially with a veteran offensive line and the playmaking abilities of third-year quarterback Kyler Murray, who followed up his Rookie of the Year selection with a Pro Bowl nod in 2020.
Winters watched in amazement last season when Murray beat him and the Bills with a dramatic, last-second 43-yard Hail Murray completion to DeAndre Hopkins, who made the catch despite having three Buffalo defenders draped all over him.
“Yeah, it was definitely one of those games that you come off the field thinking that you still won, you know what I mean?” Winters said. “You go down there, drive down the field and put up that last-second touchdown and then Kyler comes out and does something incredible. He’s a great quarterback and I’m excited to play with him. He’s quick, athletic and that’s the stuff I like.”
Blocking for a mobile quarterback such as Murray can have its trickier moments, but Winters sees it as a blessing.
“It’s one of those things that no matter what the situation is, you know you’re going to get something out of it,” he said. “He’s going to throw the ball for 10 or 15 (yards) or he’s going to run it for 10 or 15, so you always know that positive yards are going to come off the play.”
Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live on Fox Sports 910-AM every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch.
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