The next step, arguably the biggest of his career, will sometime soon appear on the horizon for Winston Rose.
Within the next few weeks, the veteran cornerback will get the concrete details about Cincinnati Bengals’ training camp and his pursuit of regular work in the National Football League and it’s then that the Inglewood, CA product will begin penning his next chapter.
Rose, just as a reminder, is one of four members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 2019 Grey Cup team to get looks down south, along with quarterback Chris Streveler (Arizona Cardinals), defensive back Marcus Sayles (Minnesota Vikings) and defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo (San Francisco 49ers).
And so while he waits, Rose will continue to work out and stay ready at his home base in Los Angeles. That’s where bluebombers.com caught up with him in a conversation earlier this week.
“I can’t complain about anything,” began the 26-year-old cornerback. “The way I look at it, this whole COVID-19 thing has allowed me to get closer to my family because I’ve had no choice but to quarantine with them.
“Other than that, it’s been just about staying ready for a season, if there’s going to be a season. I won’t think too far ahead, but I will be ready. I’m pretty excited.”
Rose parlayed his one season with the Bombers into this opportunity with the Bengals. The Canadian Football League’s interception leader last year with nine picks, Rose was also named to the CFL All-Star team.
Over the winter he worked out with three NFL teams: the Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles before settling on Cincy.
“I felt really comfortable with them,” he said. “After the workout and then being called up to the coaches’ offices and talking to them and getting to know them it helped make me feel secure. I had the same type of meeting with the Eagles, but there was just something about the conversation we had that made me feel comfortable.
“I felt like I chance not only to compete to make the team, but a chance to start with the Bengals.”
That vibe felt familiar, for it was the same sense he got in conversations with the Bombers last year before signing and after stints with the B.C. Lions and Ottawa REDBLACKS.
“It’s like déjà vu all over again, isn’t it?,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s just like last year in CFL free agency when my agent was talking to Kyle (Walters, Bombers GM). He said he wanted me to be a Bomber… that was the same thing that happened with the Bengals. Talking to Coach Lou (Anarumo, Bengals defensive coordinator), he actually knew my high school coach.
“The Bengals actually said to me, ‘Go to other workouts and feel it out for yourself. But just know we want you here.’”
Rose believes his ball skills and one-on-one coverage abilities will help him earn work in the NFL. So, too, will his three years in the CFL that taught him what it takes to be a pro and what it takes to get noticed.
“The biggest thing is I’m going to play my game, but I’m going to play it within the team system,” said Rose. “With Winnipeg… they just let me be, let me play my game, but at the same time Coach Richie (Hall) knew that we had to get the ball.
“Once I got to Winnipeg I had to learn the ‘Loose Change’ philosophy. It just means that anytime the ball is on the ground, pick it up. It’s about developing that habit. In the first five games last year I was intercepting passes and it was really, ‘Wow, what’s happening in practice is happening in games now.’
“So the key to making an impression is playing their system, doing exactly what they say, but at the same time when it comes time to compete you’ve got to make plays. The more plays you make, the more heads you’re going to turn. That’s what I always said in the meeting room and in practice: every day I’m trying to touch the ball whether that’s a PBU (pass break up), an interception, a fumble… I want to touch the ball in practice. That correlates to the game. If you make plays in practices or in games, it turns heads.”
Rose remains in regular contact with his Bombers teammates from last season. And when he isn’t dreaming about what is ahead with the Bengals, he’s flashing back to the memorable run of 2019.
“I reminisce all the time about it,” he said. “I watched the Road to the Grey Cup and soaked it all in again. It’s amazing to think about how the whole season went down. It really was like a movie. We started out hot and then had a rocky road later in the season. But we fought through it and came out on top. Football teaches you about handling adversity and how to overcome it.
“We had the 5-0 start, then Matt (Nichols) gets hurt and we threw Chris (Streveler) in and he did what he had to do. Then when we picked up Zach (Collaros) near the end. But even though we were adding new pieces and adversity had hit us, we all stuck together to the end. We figured it out. We found a way.”
That, in essence, could be Rose’s philosophy going forward: fight through adversity, figure it out, find a way.
“You know what? I’m just going to keep this train rolling until the wheels fall off,” he said. “And when that happens someday down the road I’ll be able to say I enjoyed every team I played for, every place I’ve been. It’s been a beautiful story so far.”
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