This was another physically challenging season for right guard Brian Winters as he fought through an abdomen injury suffered in Week 2 at Oakland.
But mentally, Winters remains tough as nails. He played through the pain until missing Game 15 against the Chargers and then going on Injured Reserve. And he made it clear in a season-ending interview that he wants to be with the Green & White for the long haul.
"I definitely think the group of guys we have in here, it's going to be special," Winters told Eric Allen in the Jets 360 studio prior to being placed on IR Dec. 27. "Obviously, the season didn't go the way we wanted it to go, but I'm excited. Sometimes things take a little bit of time to build. And with the people that are in this locker room, I'm excited to build on that."
After the injury, the fifth-year man from Kent State and Ohio sat out Game 3 vs. Miami, then played every snap on offense, 735 in all in Games 4-14, despite being on the injury report every week and being listed as questionable for the last five games in that stretch. That's in part because of Winters' toughness, and in part because of how he views his evolving role on the Jets' offensive line and on the team.
"Maybe I wasn't a vocal person, but I like to do my talking with my work ethic," he said. "When need be, I'll be a speaker and a talker, but I thought I took good leadership of our room. We lost some older pieces, and I'm now one of the 'older' guys in the room. But everyone wants to learn in our room and everyone wants to be there."
Winters also feeds off of his teammates. He enjoyed working again with RB Bilal Powell — "That's my guy. He's done great things" — and going through his first season with Josh McCown behind him at quarterback. It remains to be seen if McCown, a potential unrestricted free agent, will return, but Winters said the QB's effect on the good people in the locker room will still be felt in 2018.
"Josh brought a lot of people together, showed that this team could be something and can be something," Winters said. "We've got to all stick together and continue to work."