The challenges are coming fast and furious at Jameis Winston in his first training camp with the Bucs. He’s making mistakes, but the rookie QB is learning from them and asking the right questions. Plus, readers weigh in on Deflategate, pre-snap formations and monk garments
TAMPA, Fla. — Patience: a word no one here wants to hear.
“JAME-is! JAME-is! JAME-is!” Forty-five minutes after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tuesday morning practice in this soggy city, a good chunk of a big crowd was still waiting for Jameis Winston to sign for them. But he was done for the day with that. In all, signing and interviewing took up 75 minutes of Winston’s day, and that is just the norm these days for the first pick in the 2015 draft, the man who just happens to be the Bucs’ savior. They hope.
Winston looks the part. He’s shed a few pounds since draft weekend, and looks more tapered and sinewy than the kid with the Roethlisberger physique—not chunky, but not Matt Ryan either—who was drafted to save the woebegone franchise three months ago. Part of this is a result of becoming a weight-room regular. “He was the first player in the weight room on the first day of camp,” said one Buc insider Tuesday. “Six a.m. A couple of the coaches had to tell him to save a little bit for practice. He just couldn’t wait. He’s been like that a lot this off-season.”
Said GM Jason Licht: “The city’s super-excited. When I go out, I hear either, ‘This is the year,’ or, ‘So glad we’re finally headed in the right direction.’ ”
But not necessarily today. The Bucs were 30th in total offense in the league last year, 30th in sacks allowed, 29th in points … with significant holes on the line and at quarterback. And just because they've taken the quarterback of Licht’s and Lovie Smith’s dreams doesn’t mean that quarterback will be a star tomorrow. Or even in December.
“You have to know the whys," Winston says. “If you know why then you can make corrections but if you don't know why you did something, then you are stuck. As long as I keep learning the whys, I’ll be okay.”
Take Tuesday’s practice, in pads, at the Bucs’ training facility in the shadow of Raymond James Stadium. In team drills against the first defense, the first and third plays of Winston’s day were interceptions—by linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alterraun Verner. This came after a three-pick practice Sunday. Five weeks from the first game of his pro career, Jameis Winston is very much a work in progress.
But why wouldn’t he be? What rookie, confronted with a great drop-and-cover linebacker like David and a clinging cornerback like Verner, isn’t going to make some errors? Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions in a 3-13 rookie season. The pressure will come, from the pass-rush and the media and the public, and Winston will have to have answers. He had them after practice Tuesday.
On the Lavonte David interception, was it not having his read down?
“No sir,” Winston said. “I overthrew Vincent [Jackson].”
And the Verner interception—any reason you were behind him?
“Yeah, I was late,” he said. “That's a thing with the chemistry. That concept was a timing lapse. We’ve got all the reads—I get those. But when the [strongside] linebacker pushes over, I'm supposed to work backside. So obviously, I'm going to see that on film and I already know in my head what I did wrong.
“One thing I've learned is you have to know the whys. If you know why then you can make corrections but if you don't know why you did something, then you are stuck. As long as I keep learning the whys and focus on the positives, I’ll be okay.”
That’s important. Remember what offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said in the spring. When Winston told Koetter he wasn’t afraid of making any throw to any place on the field, Koetter told him, “Maybe you should be.”
That’s the fine line Winston will walk this season, behind an offensive line that’s very much a work in progress, with either two or three new starters, including rookies Donovan Smith at left tackle and Ali Marpet of mighty Hobart & William Smith College at right guard. (Though Marpet was still working with the second line Tuesday.) He needs to have guts. But he has to know when to fold ’em too.
“Look at [Winston's] last couple of years,” Smith said. “Highs and lows. That’s the life of a quarterback. You’ve got to get used to them. They’re coming.”
One last thing about Winston, who had a slew of legal issues in college, including one sexual-assault accusation: He was a human headline for three years at Florida State. The best thing that happened this off-season for Winston? He was invisible. We’ll see how long it lasts, but that might be the best sign of his first three months as a pro—being seen and not heard.
Now for your email:
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The one issue that I have not seen discussed about Aaron Kromer's six-game suspension is that it appears NFL coaches are paid 52 weeks a year (like most of us) and so the six-week suspension and loss of salary is only 6/52 or a little less than 1/8 of his yearly salary. Compare this to Tom Brady who if the four-game suspension is upheld will lose 1/4 (4/16) of his salary since the players are only paid for regular season games. Obviously missing six games is going to be detrimental to Kromer's long-term standing with the Bills but from a financial point of view his punishment is more lenient than a lot of the players.
—Hank Grohman, Phoenix
That is true. However, you probably should consider that an offensive line coach in the NFL makes in 52 weeks what Tom Brady would make in two quarters of a football game. I’m guessing, but Aaron Kromer probably makes about $300,000 per year. I do understand that you are trying to make a point about unequal penalties to coaches and players. But, it’s all relative. Really, the damage to Kromer’s career and future job opportunities is probably the biggest loss of any involving that story.
REMEMBER THE TRICK FORMATIONS?
Lost in the (understandable) uproar over Deflategate is the fact that the NFL outlawed the trick formations used by the Patriots in the playoffs vs. Baltimore and Indianapolis. As a fan, this was very disappointing; it seemed to me that an opportunity for some exciting offense was lost. Is there a sense about this around the league? It was treated like a loophole that needed to be closed, even though others had used the formations in the past.
—David Lauria, Barrington, R.I.
I agree totally. I thought the formation was fun, imaginative, and all together legal. That formation has been part of the rules for years, although an arcane part. It should have been kept.
There are some misconceptions floating around about Brady's legal appeal that your column (and other statements) have unfortunately helped spread.
First, the appeal has nothing to do with whether the NFL “proved” that Brady deflated the balls. The judge couldn't care less—he isn't tasked with looking at the proof (or lack of it). Judge Doty's reversal of Adrian Peterson's suspension had nothing to do with proof—in fact, Peterson was guilty. It had to do with the punishment wasn't in place when Peterson committed his act, and Peterson was punished ex-post using a new standard. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the commissioner has the power to determine discipline for acts that affect the competitive balance of the game, and also has the power to hear appeals—that was the agreement signed by the NFLPA well before Deflategate. Perhaps Brady and his legal team will find some way to convince the judge that the penalty was out of line given the agreement and/or precedent. But the judge is absolutely not going to be looking at whether the NFL proved anything. You are completely wrong here.
Second, the people comparing Brady's suspension to Greg Hardy's miss an important point. Greg Hardy's alleged transgressions are primarily the responsibility of the legal system. Tom Brady's alleged transgressions have nothing to do with the legal system—the NFL has complete responsibility for competitive balance and cheating. The NFL isn't saying Hardy's acts are comparable to Brady's. It's a completely fatuous argument—Hardy's main punishment should come from the legal system, not from Roger Goodell.
You make some good points. As far as the Brady situation goes, most of what I wrote centered around the fact that I didn’t believe the original sanction by Goodell was fair. I am not going to believe that the rejection of his appeal was fair either. I get that the judge isn’t going to be looking at the point-by-point arguments in this case. In regards to the Hardy/Brady comparison, one of the biggest problems in oversimplifying anything when you compare two things that appear to be alike is that often times they are not at all alike. You are right: the two sanctions are for completely different reasons. And I have never felt that Hardy’s 15 missed games in 2014 should count as some sort of sanction. After all, he and Adrian Peterson were taken off the field because in the eyes of the law, they likely had committed a crime. It is certainly an oversimplification when you say that Hardy and Brady are getting the same penalties. In fact, it is an insult to anyone’s intelligence.
NOTE FROM A FORMERS STEELERS MONK
I am an alumnus of St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., where the Steelers hold training camp. I really debated about whether I should disillusion you or not, but the fact is that a monk's habit ("robes," or a cassock that priests sometimes wear) is just about the coolest—in temperature if not style—and most comfortable piece of clothing that it is possible to wear. Underwear and t-shirt, wake up in the morning or after a nap, throw on a cassock/habit, and be dressed in 10 seconds in clothing that is cool—in winter wear pants and shirt for warmth—and as comfortable as you can imagine. I will probably get in trouble for destroying the image, but thought I would pass along the truth.
—Father Pat McGinnis, Huntington, W.V.
See what you learn when you read the Wednesday mailbag? Thanks a lot for writing.
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