BEREA — Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter tried his best to lure Kellen Winslow Jr. into a war of words, but the Browns tight end refused to fire back.
Winslow opted to take the high road Thursday afternoon, one day after being publicly challenged by the former Steelers standout.
“I think Joey Porter needs a hug,” Winslow deadpanned. “He’s so angry, man.
“He doesn’t have to be worried about me. He should be worried about the team concept. He should be looking for a win, like we are. That’s what it’s all about.”
The archrivals will renew acquaintances on the field Sunday when winless Miami visits Cleveland. It will be the third time they have gone head-to-head, but the first since Porter left Pittsburgh via free agency in the spring.
He wasted no time trying to rekindle the feud Wednesday in South Florida, pointing out that the Steelers beat the Browns twice last season while disparaging Winslow’s skills.
“If you ask me who is going to win the Joey Porter-Kellen Winslow battle, it’s me hands down,” Porter said. “He’s not going to stop me from doing anything I want to do.
“He’s a receiver, really. He’s not a tight end. He’s not going to block nobody.”
Despite the duo’s checkered past, Winslow laughed off those comments and called them a distraction from the game itself. By not responding with verbal shots, the fourth-year pro showed just how much he has grown as a person.
Just last season, Winslow and Porter engaged in a trash-talking incident prior to the Browns-Steelers game in Cleveland, forcing officials to separate them. “K2” also stood up to his nemesis during the game, stiff-arming him out of the way after making a catch.
When the teams met later in the season at Heinz Field, Winslow attempted to make amends with a pregame handshake that Porter declined. The brash Browns playmaker then delivered a late hit on Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior, prompting Porter to refer to him with a homosexual slur.
“I think Kellen has matured,” Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel said. “He still has emotion, he’s still competitive, but he’s more disciplined. I don’t think he will become unhinged (by Porter). I think Kellen knows he has a job to do and he’ll go out and do it.”
Winslow, who ranks seventh in the NFL in receiving yards (416) and is tied for 24th in receptions (24), agreed with his coach.
“I’m just learning from my mistakes and growing up,” he said. “The only reason I did that last year was to fire my team up and to show I believed in them.”
Ironically, that same reasoning applies to Porter’s frequent verbal outbursts. In an attempt to inspire the Dolphins two weeks ago, he guaranteed they would beat Oakland for their first win of 2007 — only to have the Raiders roll to a 37-20 victory.
But that’s where the comparison ends between rising star Winslow and aging pro Porter, at least for now.
“I’m not worried about Joey Porter. He’s not even their best player, Jason Taylor is,” Winslow said, smiling. “Honestly, he’d probably be a great teammate. But he’s not on our team, so it doesn’t really matter.”
Contact Brian Dulik can be reached at (330) 721-4059 or BRISports@hotmail.com.