Defensive lineman Chase Winovich, one of the more colorful personalities to ever play for Michigan, is now in southern California preparing for the NFL Combine while also recovering from an injury suffered in the Wolverines’ bowl game that prevented him from participating in the Senior Bowl.
But Winovich, voted the team’s MVP for the season and named a captain for his final college game, has no regrets that he played the bowl despite losing out on valuable on-field and face time with NFL scouts.
Winovich suffered an unspecified injury in the second-to-last game of the regular season against Indiana. He said before the bowl game he needed surgery — he hasn’t offered specifics — and chose to play in the bowl.
Winovich joined “The View from the Press Box” podcast this week and touched on a number of subjects, including Michigan’s losses the final two games, against Ohio State and Florida, the departure of his position coach, Greg Mattison, to Ohio State, not being voted a captain, the “Revenge Tour” that he coined, how Michigan has improved since his arrival there, quarterback Shea Patterson's decision to return to the Wolverines for his final year, and his Michigan legacy.
“Going through my whole college career, I didn’t have that many injuries and then all of a sudden the last couple of weeks (of the season), I just had a bunch,” Winovich said. “In the Florida game I hurt my foot and my ankle. I was taking on a block, and you can see my foot flip and my foot just kinda gave out.”
He went straight from the bowl to combine training and doctors told him he needed to rest the injury. That prevented him from attending the Senior Bowl.
Still, Winovich isn’t sorry he played in the bowl.
“I absolutely have no regrets. No regrets all,” he said. “I’m very happy I did, in fact. It cemented whatever people viewed my legacy as in the Michigan lore. It was fun — not losing the game — but the build up and going to Florida and getting my whole family together. I like playing football so any time I get the chance to ... obviously, for me personally, it was important for me to play in that game by any means necessary and I’m proud of that fact.
“I could have quit. Not saying not playing is quitting, but whenever faced with the injury, it’s something you have to deal with. It’s no knock on the guys that didn’t play, I’ve said this several times. But it’s one of those things you have to make a decision for yourself, and I think I made the best decision for myself regardless of my ankle injury or regardless I already had an injury.
"It’s tough commenting on this stuff, because one opinion is going to be compared to, ‘Oh, what about this guy? He’s talking about him.’ I really don’t think that way. I’m thinking about myself and what I make of my thought process and deciding to play in that game.”
Winovich has not yet had surgery and will wait until after the combine.
“We had to get feedback from different coaches and different NFL personnel,” Winovich said. “Not everyone agreed with this. Some said to get the surgery right away even they couldn’t dispute I have a lot to prove at the combine.
“That’s my mentality going into this. I’m a big chip-on-the-shoulder guy, but for whatever reason, people can take some guess why I don’t get the benefit of the doubt on speed, but some of these estimations of what I’m going to run are rude. I don’t think I played that slow. I think I played pretty quick. I have a lot to prove. I like to view stuff as opportunities and this is one of those, a golden one. It’s important for me to postpone the surgery. I don’t want this to be misconstrued — it’s not a life-threatening surgery. It’s just something I have to deal with because it can’t heal on its own.”
For now, Winovich said he is enjoying the process of preparing for the combine and the next step in his football career.
“This has been a great experience so far,” he said. “Cool to see from where I started how my numbers are steadily climbing and my physical transformation is underway. I think I’m making the most of it right now.”
Here are some highlights from Winovich’s appearance on The Detroit News podcast, 'View from the Press Box":
►On what happened in the losses to Ohio State and Florida: “Once again, it’s one of those questions you can’t really answer without really throwing people under the bus. But at the end of the day, Ohio State was a better team than us that day. And Florida, that was too tough of a mountain to climb with all the injuries we had and the lack of depth losing some of our key players. It was too much of a hill to surmount. That’s why it was important I finished it, too. I wasn’t the actual captain through the majority of the year. I felt even as the captain at the end I always viewed it as this is my team as in our team as in the players’ team.”
►On referring to the 62-39 loss to Ohio State as a “mirage”: “This is definitely my most controversial comment, I’d say. It wasn’t a planned response. It was impromptu. It was something I had been thinking about the past day or two (after the game) because we had lost a recruit, Daxton Hill, and it was like one of those things if these guys are de-committing because where they think Michigan is and where the program is heading, I was more making a statement on that. Which, by the way it worked, humble brag (Hill flipped back to Michigan from Alabama). I don’t know if I had everything to do with it, but I like to think I had a .01 percent influence on the young lad.
"But I would say mirage — a lot of people would agree — wasn’t the best choice of words. It’s a word you can poke fun at. What I was really feeling, however many points they beat us by, I didn’t believe they were that much better than us if you watched them the whole season, just the body of work. I don’t mean this disrespectfully, because I’ve got a lot of respect for their coaches and players, on that day in particular. There’s no question on that that day they were the better team than us. I think at the end of the day, the comment upset a lot of their fans because I felt after that game, with all the momentum we had, I think they wanted me to come out publicly and just be broken. That’s not who I am. Am I going to respect them maybe more so after that? Yeah, probably. But I’m not going to bow to anybody. It might not have been the best choice of words. Hats off to them. They’re definitely a worthy opponent, to say the least.”
►On his reaction to Mattison leaving for Ohio State’s staff: “If I was being candid, at this point, this is where people would play the safe answer, and I’m going to try to play on the safe side, but it’s one of those things I was pretty hurt by it, honestly. You’re so invested in Michigan as a player, it’s frowned upon to transfer or even leave your school early, but you have coaches take those same opportunities that arise and try to better themselves and their families. I think the system is more flawed. I’m not judging Coach Mattison for leaving. It’s not my place to judge what a man is going to do to better himself and his family. If he thought that was the best business move for himself, the better opportunity, he doesn’t have that many years left to coach. I know he looks young, but his knees aren’t the best.
"He was a great coach to me and very faithful to me throughout the process. Anytime I made a mistake on the field, even though he might chew me out, he was patient in my process of learning and becoming a better player and person. I’m sure he’s going to do the same thing for those Ohio State players. They got a great coach and paying whatever they had to get him over there. I know he’ll be missed at Michigan. It’s something you have to accept.”
►On his legacy: “For the large part, people could agree this is a guy that has had many opportunities to cash in on all the things Michigan has provided. For the most part I’ve taken those opportunities and turned (others) away especially when it came to leave Michigan, several opportunities between the Florida game and after last season. Time and time again I chose Michigan over everything else. It’s something I love and will continue to love until my kids go to Michigan and my grandkids go to Michigan.”
►On whether he has met with any NFL teams, and the prospects of playing for his hometown team, the Steelers: “I have not had a chance to meet with any teams. At the combine I would have to do all the interviews. That would be something to play for the Steelers because I grew up in Pittsburgh and their facilities are on the south side, and my house is 15-20 minutes away from there.”