Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs’ Jameis Winston to start vs. Packers on Sunday

TAMPA — With the playoffs pretty much out of reach, the Bucs have retreated into the most comfortable of cocoons: Take it one game at a time. Finish strong. Focus on beating Green Bay at storied Lambeau Field on Sunday.

A shot in the arm came Wednesday when coach Dirk Koetter said that quarterback Jameis Winston will start against the Packers after missing the past three games with a shoulder injury.

Winston practiced and showed signs of rust, but the rest has helped him.

"He took the majority of the reps out there," Koetter said. "Threw the football fine. His arm strength was fine. I don’t think any guy who plays a skill position like that where timing is involved is going to take three weeks off and be perfect on the first day."

Winston’s return boosted his teammates.

"It’s going to be great," receiver DeSean Jackson said. "We missed that guy out there the past couple games."

But even sunny days have clouds. The Bucs were forced to place center Ali Marpet and tackle Demar Dotson on injured reserve, both with knee injuries sustained in Sunday’s 34-20 loss at Atlanta.

"It’s disappointing that you take two guys that were playing well on a team that needs more consistent play and they’re out," Koetter said.

Losing arguably their two best offensive linemen as their starting quarterback returns serves to create only more questions about the Bucs’ final five games.

Will the rash of injuries serve as a legitimate excuse for the disappointment in 2017?

And does it make less sense to risk further injury to Winston by playing him behind a suddenly suspect offensive line?

For starters, in the NFL, nobody cares who is injured.

The most winnable game left on the Bucs’ schedule might be against the Packers, who are 1-4 since quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down and out with a broken collarbone.

When Koetter meets with the Glazer family to make his case for why the owners should bring him back in 2018, chances are he won’t take a weekly injury report. If he did, the only thing to point to would be the 0-4 mark after Winston was hurt in the second quarter at Arizona in Week 6 and before he was taken out of the lineup to heal.

But Winston’s injury wasn’t season-ending. You can question the wisdom of not playing backup Ryan Fitzpatrick sooner — Winston played 2½ games before reinjuring the shoulder and being sidelined — but Winston has missed only three full games, not 13.

The Glazers — like the fans, players and coaching staff — had enormous expectations going into the season. When you’re taking on water in the ocean, it doesn’t matter what caused the leak.

On Wednesday, upon learning the news about Marpet and Dotson, some Bucs fans took to social media to say the only reason Winston is playing is to save Koetter’s job.

A few things about that. Since when is a team’s won-loss record a good reason to shut down its stars?

If you believe Winston is too valuable to play for the final five weeks of the regular season, where do you draw the line? What about Jackson, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander or Gerald McCoy?

"When I took a poll, it was 45,000 to 38,995 in favor," Koetter said jokingly.

"It’s a league where, when you’re healthy, you play. Again, the risk factor, that’s there every week at every position. So when your medical staff clears any player for any injury to play … if a player is at no more risk than whatever the normal risk is — and in the NFL, that’s substantial — then they’re going to play. That’s what they’re paid to do."

The NFL is part of the entertainment business. The networks paid enormous rights fees to televise games and fans buy tickets expecting to watch the best players play.

The timing of Winston’s return could be better, considering the injuries to Marpet and Dotson. But the show goes on, and the stars must take the stage.

Comments
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Who will the Bucs take with the No. 7 pick?

Rick Stroud answers your NFL draft questions in this mailbag segment, including who the Bucs might take with the seventh overall pick, which running backs they might be looking at, whether Taven Bryan could slip to them in the second r...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

For months, NFL fans have wondered what the Bucs might do with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's draft, producing a wide range of answers, each with passionate support from some of their fans.But as draft nears, and as the interest level in a talented gro...
Published: 04/24/18
Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Vita VeaPosition: Defensive tackleSchool: WashingtonHeight/weight: 6-4, 347Draft projection: Round 1Why Vita Vea makes sense for the Bucs: Vea's combination of size and quick feet is rare. He ran a 5.1 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 40 tim...
Published: 04/24/18
Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

The final days leading up to the NFL draft can be a busy time, but rarely do you call someone you trust from a team and say: "What can you tell me about the parrot?"Yes, the Bucs will have a parrot — specifically a Catalina macaw named Zsa Zsa ...
Published: 04/24/18
Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

So much of the attention Monday surrounding the Bucs' announcing who'd be announcing their late-round draft picks was, of course, that a parrot would be delivering the name of the fourth-round pick to the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium.But late...
Published: 04/24/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

On today's Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast, Rick Stroud breaks down the NFL draft with the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer.Farmer coordinates a mock draft with beat writers around the league, and it's usually one of the most accurate prognostications...
Published: 04/24/18
NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

The NFL Draft starts Thursday from Arlington, Texas, with coverage of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the broadcast schedule for all three days and the draft order for every round:Schedule(all times Eastern)Thursday, April 26...
Published: 04/24/18
Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Late-round NFL draft picks are often made on a wing and a prayer.The Bucs' fourth-round pick Saturday will be no different. The team announced Monday that as part of the NFL draft TV broadcast, the team's fourth-round pick will be delivered to an ann...
Published: 04/23/18
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Published: 04/22/18
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Published: 04/22/18