INDIANAPOLIS -- There may or may not a be a slight lack of strength in his throwing shoulder, as first came to light on Friday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine, but Jameis Winston’s self-confidence is as healthy as ever.
That much became quickly apparent in the course of his 11-minute-plus media session here, as the former Florida State quarterback seemed relaxed and at ease with the idea that he’s destined for NFL greatness. Forget those Marcus Mariota comparisons this draft season. Winston has bigger matchups in mind.
"This is no competition between me and Mariota," Winston said. "Because one thing about me, I plan on winning the Super Bowl next year. So it’s gonna be Jameis versus Peyton Manning or Jameis versus Tom Brady. I want to be viewed like that. After all this combine stuff, you’re not going to hear no more about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. I want my name to stay relevant for the next 15-20 years of my career."
And Winston didn’t stop with that eye-opening pronouncement. He spoke openly of his "dream of being a Hall of Famer some day," and informed us that "I don’t even know how good I am yet," because this was the first year since early childhood that he hasn’t played baseball, and thus has an entire football offseason to devote to honing his quarterbacking skills.
Time will tell if Winston’s throwing shoulder has any issues that concern NFL teams. ESPN reported Friday that he underwent further testing to determine why he’s experiencing weakness in the shoulder, with Winston having electromyography to study whether there’s a potential nerve problem. The issue was detected during the standard combine medical exams, but Winston refuted the significance of the report, saying he underwent only an "MRI" here, and has "the same shoulder I done had the last two years at Florida State," reporting that he has no discomfort. And to underline that point, Winston announced from the podium that he will indeed be taking part in the combine’s passing drills on Saturday with the rest of the quarterbacks, Mariota included.
"I had an MRI (on Thursday), just like everyone else," Winston said. "I’ve been playing football since I was 4 years old, and my shoulder has been fine." Perhaps it was his baseball career as a pitcher, Winston added, that led to some issue with the shoulder, requiring the testing.
Shoulder aside, the throwing will no doubt be the easy part for Winston this weekend. More important have been his one-on-one interviews with teams, where he went on the offensive in trying to convince NFL personnel evaluators and executives that his well-chronicled character issues at Florida State should not define him in the future.
"I know I made mistakes," he said preemptively, before even being asked a question about his reputation for self-created trouble. "I know I have a past. But right now, it’s about me moving forward and earning the trust of these 32 teams out there.
"My job as a quarterback is to be the face of a franchise, and (whatever) franchise that is, I’ve got to do that. My job is to win games and hopefully win Super Bowls. And I know that that is a big responsibility. This is a job up here and whatever is behind me is behind me. This is a new face."
The face of the franchise line was an obvious talking point that the 21-year-old Winston wanted to drive home, repeating a version of those words about a half-dozen times during the course of his Q&A session.
And while talking a good game made for a good impression on Friday, Winston must stay away from the kind of misdeeds that marred his collegiate career, and there have been a few of them. He was investigated for sexual assault in Tallahassee. He was charged for stealing $32 worth of crab legs from a supermarket. He incurred a game suspension last season after shouting an expletive-laced obscene phrase in FSU’s student union.
Winston acknowledged that his challenge isn’t about his words as much as his deeds.
"My actions. I have to do everything by my actions," Winston said, in explaining his approach to his NFL job candidacy. "It’s not time to explain about what I’m going through, but when I do get to a city and a team, I plan on getting involved in the community and create an image, a positive image, and put everything else behind me."
Of course, we heard a lot of the same sort of time-to-grow-up sentiments from former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel last year at this same time, and look how Johnny Football’s rookie season turned out in Cleveland. Manziel is currently in unspecified treatment for some of his personal issues, and his lack of maturity and judgment have rendered his still-nascent NFL career a complete question mark.
Manziel’s draft standing carried far more on-field risks than Winston’s does, with the Florida State star and former Heisman winner being viewed as the prototypical pro-style pocket passer who should thrive in the NFL. But his red flags on the character front could make teams at the top of the draft wary of what potential problems they will be signing on for if they select him. That’s where the shadow of Manziel’s rookie experience could impact Winston’s world.
"I can’t speak on behalf of another player because I’m a different person," Winston said. "I’m Jameis Winston and I go back to what I came up here to say, that I’m here to gain the trust of all 32 teams. (It’s about) my actions. You’ll see in a year. I can’t predict the future. You can’t predict the future. But what I can do right now is do what I need to do to be the face of a franchise."
Winston deftly put his determination to erase his past on display Friday, even taking a light-hearted approach to the recent reports (and at least one photo) that his conditioning had declined since Florida State lost to Oregon and Mariota in the Rose Bowl.
"A lot of people thought I was fat, but I’m here, I’m proving everybody wrong," he said. "I look good and I know it."
But proving people wrong will be a months-long process for Winston this year, and it included him dealing with the report that his throwing shoulder might not be quite right on the eve of his combine workout. But for what it’s worth, he struck the tone right on Friday, and took a small step toward making his case for why quarterback-needy Tampa Bay can be confident in spending its coveted No. 1 pick on him.
"It would be a privilege to get accepted by the Glazer family in Tampa," Winston said. "I know I have to gain their trust. I know I have to gain a lot of people’s trust. But whatever happens, this is just my opportunity and I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity because this is what I dream of."
Reaching his NFL dream is almost at hand for Winston, but first comes the most important work he faces. His game is fine, it’s his name that needs some polish.