In 2004, Kellen Winslow Jr. was a first-round draft pick. In 2006, he had a career-high 89 receptions. And as recently as 2011, he recorded 75 catches.

But on Tuesday, he found himself in the unusual position of beginning a three-day job audition at the Jets’ spring minicamp. Winslow has no contract, but the veteran tight end was invited along with several other players to try out this week.

But the confident Winslow doesn’t necessarily see his situation as humbling.

"It’s better than sitting on the couch," Winslow said of the tryout. "I’m going to prove myself and try to impress the coaches."

Certainly the 29-year-old Winslow didn’t look like a couch potato in his first practice. He was able to get open on numerous occasions, working with quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.

There would seem to be an opportunity at Winslow’s position. With the departure of Dustin Keller to Miami as a free agent, backup Jeff Cumberland, who has 32 receptions in three NFL seasons, is the projected starter at this time. Konrad Reuland and former rugby player Hayden Smith are the reserves.

Winslow admitted it has been difficult to go through this off-season without a contract after being released by Seattle and New England in 2012. He had one catch in one game with the Pats.

"It’s a situation that I’ve never gone through," Winslow said. "It’s probably one of the hardest situations I’ve had to go through. You don’t know what your future holds and this is my dream, and when it’s taken away like that, it’s hard.

"I have years left," he added. "My last [full] year was 2011, and I caught 75 balls, so I’ve been productive. It’s just the NFL. It’s how it goes sometimes. You get cut, you get traded, and you can’t do anything about it. It’s out of my control."

Winslow indicated he is healthy, and coach Rex Ryan hinted one of the reasons for the extended tryout was to see how his body holds up after each day.