Winston speaks, and players practice at One Buc Place
When the Buccaneers make a big play to get across midfield, radio voice Gene Deckerhoff has been known to exclaim “we’re in business!” On Thursday at One Buc Place, it was back to business. The first practice of 2018 training camp did not come with fanfare. The hype and high expectations that had become a staple of Buccaneers football in recent years is entirely gone from Tampa Bay at the moment.
That may seem like a bad thing, but in fact it was a refreshing look for the Buccaneers to come into camp and just have to go about their business. Nobody is asking questions about the playoffs right now, and that absence allows the Buccaneers to get down to the hard work of preparing for football season.
Pro sports in general are about adaptability, but none more than the NFL. A team is really put to the test when they have to resort to Plan B or even C. There is enough talent in the league that just about every team will look good if they’re able to play the way they planned to play. What a team does when they cannot play their preferred style is what separates contenders from also-rans.
If there is a silver lining in the Jameis Winston suspension, if there is a positive takeaway, it is that the Buccaneers are forced to work on Plan B from the very start of training camp, knowing that they will be without their starting quarterback for the first three games of 2018. While Winston was often the first quarterback to take a snap at Thursday’s practice, a lot of the team’s emphasis seemed to be on backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.
This could lead to a team that does not put all their eggs into one basket on offense, a mistake teams often make in the current QB-centric version of the NFL. Even when the 2017 Buccaneers loaded up on players at skill positions, it seemed like the plan was still geared toward Winston carrying the team wherever it was going to go. Such a thing will not be possible in 2018. No matter how forced, creativity will be important.
“My main goal is to be a great person, a great teammate and a great leader every single day. I think I’ve done that.”
In all honesty, there is little in it for an athlete who truly opens up and provides honesty in a press conference. The reward is rare and negligible. The punishment for a press conference misstep, however, can linger for months. It is more than a difficult position for a player to be in, sometimes it is an impossible one.
Jameis Winston was asked some tough questions on Thursday after practice. He answered to the best of his ability. His answers are open to interpretation, and some of those interpretations will be intensely negative. At times it sounded like Winston believed that the only thing he did wrong was ordering a ride in Arizona. At other times it seemed like maybe the quarterback still does not believe he deserved to be suspended.
Of course, this is where the true disadvantage of the press conference comes out: Jameis Winston is not a wordsmith nor does he claim to be. The people he was answering, however, have made words into a line of work. A misplaced word, or even a tone of voice can make an audience of writers and other journalists start interpreting.
What could have been diplomatic statements aimed at putting this behind Winston in his own head might have come across differently to a room full of reporters.
The fact is that these answers do not ultimately matter. There is only going to be one measure of whether or not Jameis Winston has put this incident behind him: An absence of similar incidents moving forward. There were no words he could have uttered on Thursday that would convince the unbelievers, and likely none that would have made his supporters give up on him. That answer—the real important answer—will only come through action.