The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened up training camp Thursday with quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick both getting reps with the starters.
In addition to practice, Winston faced the media for the first time since he was issued a three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The punishment is in relation to a March 2016 incident in which Winston allegedly groped an Uber driver in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The fourth-year signal caller from Florida State repeatedly told reporters he is looking forward to learning from this situation and moving forward from it. He noted that the incident happened directly after his rookie year. He also said he understands why fans would be disappointed in him, and added that he is disappointed as well.
"I tell the fans to continue to support this team, continue to support me because I've been here," Winston told reporters. "My main goal as a leader is to be a huge advocate in the community and I've done that and I want to continue to do that."
Winston also mentioned that he has apologized to his teammates and explained that he doesn't want to be a distraction to the team.
Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter also addressed media for the first time since learning he would play the first three games of the season without his starting quarterback, and said Winston will have to make a slight adjustment to his leadership role while dealing with the suspension, "talking to guys behind the scenes ... instead of being the guy out in front of the team."
"I think that's one of Jameis's strengths as a football player, is his leadership," Koetter told reporters. "But where we're standing right now with the three-game suspension, it's time that Jameis leads from the rear. And there's nothing wrong with that."
Tampa Bay will face the Saints, Eagles in Steelers to start the season without Winston, and Fitzpatrick will almost certainly get the starts in those contests. Winston can participate in all the preseason games and training camp activities, but will not be able to take the field for the Buccaneers in a meaningful game until Week 4 against the Bears.