Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston Impresses in OTAs


So far, so good for the Jameis Winston era in Tampa. Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith told ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas on Thursday, “We have to kind of tell him when to leave.”

This fits with the on-field reputation Winston developed at Florida State – that of a leader in the locker room and in the weight room.

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Winston missed OTAs on Thursday to attend the rookie premiere event in Los Angeles, but he took double reps on Wednesday to make up for the absence.

There’s a few veteran players around the league who could learn something from Winston’s behavior. As the number one overall pick, Winston signed a lucrative $23.35 million contract that included a $16.7 million signing bonus, according to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com. Winston’s behavior to date indicates that winning is, for him, better motivation than money.

In his first press conference as a Buccaneer Jameis promised, “I plan to prepare harder than anyone else.”

And he’s aware that he’ll be doing so under heavy scrutiny. In the same conference he said, “I’ve been up under a microscope for the past two years like no one else, so I’m kind of used to that. I’m just ready to play football. I’m ready to get involved in the community, I’m ready to just do positive things and move forward.”

Winston’s teammates have had the benefit of a close and personal inspection of his play and demeanor over the last month. As Yasinskas notes, they’re also impressed with that they’re seeing.

“He gets better every day,” tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. “He’s picking up the offense very fast.”

That’s good, because Coach Smith indicated that there’s no holds barred on Jameis’ education.

“We’re kind of throwing him out there and he’s handling just about everything we’ve asked him to do,” he told Yasinskas.

May 8, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) works out for rookie mini camp at One Buc Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

One of the key traits Winston will need to work on is consistency. Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports compared Winston’s play to embattled Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

“His first halves were often Cutler-like packed with turnovers and second-guessing. His passes in the 11-20 yard range were also horrendous. Last season, he completed just 56.8 percent and tossed 11 picks within that distance. If he telegraphs throws at the next level, a cascade of boos and possible pine time are sure to follow.”

Fortunately, Lovie Smith has plenty of experience in managing Cutler, having coached him for four years in Chicago.

Winston has more physical tools than Cutler, with a body more like Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. And, unlike Cutler, Winston thrives under pressure, leading the college nation in fourth quarter comebacks in 2014. It seems much more difficult to get under his skin, and while Cutler is famous for his attitude of indifference, Winston seems honestly earnest to learn and get out on the field.

First impressions are very important. With Jameis Winston’s maturity issues from college dragging behind him into the pros, it was especially critical to put his best foot forward during the pre-season. For the Bucs, it’s a highly encouraging sign that they made the right decision with their number one pick.

Next: Expectations for the Bucs' Charlie Sims

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