Winston chooses intensive, stress-heavy pro day to prove worth to teams
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The men in NFL team-issued polos and sweats kept looking at their watches early Tuesday afternoon. There were flights to catch, and some of those flights were going to be missed if Jameis Winston kept throwing. But the former Florida State quarterback kept walking back to center Cam Erving, kept taking more snaps and kept flinging the ball. Why?
Last year, quarterback coach George Whitfield designed a pro day for 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel that featured Drake tunes, a helmet and shoulder pads and 64 throws. That workout helped Manziel get drafted in the first round. This year, Whitfield designed a workout for the 2013 Heisman winner that was soundtracked by the grunting of Florida State’s former receivers as they pushed off the line of scrimmage. Winston threw more than 100 times, not counting 35 warmup tosses. Whitfield and his assistants regularly chased Winston from the pocket, sometimes with tennis rackets or a broom. “It goes to each man’s idea of how he wants to make his statement. That’s how Johnny wanted to make his statement. You go off how they want to make their statement and you try to engineer something functional around it. This is what Jameis wanted to do. Blue collar, no music, high volume [of throws], stress.”
Winston wanted NFL teams to see him flushed from the pocket. He wanted them to see him reset, gather himself and throw. He wanted to show off the work he has done in San Diego. One knock on his mechanics is that he occasionally threw like a baseball pitcher working from the stretch, stepping too far and spreading his arms too wide before bringing his hands back together in what Whitfield calls the "weapons hot" position. There is a reasonable explanation for this. For much of his athletic life, Winston, who also played on Florida State’s baseball team, was a pitcher working from the stretch. Tuesday, he showed off the more compact delivery on most throws. For the most part, he also stayed low. Whitfield said Winston has been trying to correct a tendency to stand too tall in the pocket. To be in position to throw, the 6'4" Winston should bend his knees to make himself 5'11".
Showing off his mechanical improvements probably helped, but Winston didn't need much help Tuesday. He's probably getting picked either by Tampa Bay at No. 1 or Tennessee at No. 2. The dozens of coaches and scouts from teams that aren't the Buccaneers or the Titans probably could have left after putting the other 10 or 11 Florida State players who are likely to be drafted through their paces. But some of them probably wanted to see receiver Rashad Greene and tailback Karlos Williams catch the ball. Winston took advantage of that attendance to promote some of his lesser-known receivers. Before he began throwing, he introduced the personnel men to Christian "Pops" Green and to Jarred Haggins, who Winston called "the hardest worker on this team." Then Winston hinted at the length of the workout to come. “Thank y’all for coming," he told the NFL team reps. "Please enjoy y’all selves. If y’all want to take a seat, go ahead.”
Winston probably didn't help himself much, seeing as the presumptive No. 1 pick can't rise any higher. But he certainly didn't hurt himself. Bucs general manager Jason Licht called Winston's workout "outstanding" minutes after it ended.
The Bucs are still doing their due diligence on Winston. They continue to research his off-the-field issues. They have called those close to Winston in an attempt to get a fuller picture of the the dumb (stealing crab legs, yelling an obscenity in the student union) and the serious incidents. The most serious questions surround the rape allegation made against Winston by then-Florida State student Erica Kinsman, who tells her side of the story in a documentary called The Hunting Ground. Winston, who was not charged criminally and who was cleared in a Florida State student conduct hearing, has had the chance to tell his side to teams. Once those teams collect all the information they can, they'll have to decide if they want to make Winston the face of their franchise.
It certainly seems the Bucs are ready to do just that. Winston probably could have skated through Tuesday's workout and not changed anyone's opinion at One Buc Place in Tampa. But his stress-heavy routine, which forced him to scramble, sprint out and frequently change direction before throwing, probably gave Tampa Bay coaches and officials a little better idea of what kind of quarterback they're considering drafting.
“I’m a competitor," Winston said when asked to explain why he opted for a more complex workout. "Like 100% Juicy Juice. I’m a competitor.”
Later, someone asked Winston why he thought he deserved to be the No. 1 pick. “Because I’m the best player in the draft," Winston said.
When the interviews were done, Winston gave receiver Greene one more handshake and hug. Then Winston headed for the exit of Florida State's indoor practice facility. A cluster of men wearing Titans logos walked ahead of him. "Let's go work," Titans director of college scouting Blake Beddingfield said.
At this rate, Tuesday afternoon's meeting might be the only work Winston does for the Titans. He'll likely be gone when they pick at No. 2.