Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cardinals coach Arians has long admired Bucs QB Winston

TAMPA — Jameis Winston was a sophomore in high school when he first left an impression on Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who met the quarterback at a football camp Arians ran with his son in Birmingham, Ala.

"Yeah, I mean, 'Jaboo' was a legend in Birmingham," Arians, 63, said, referencing Winston's childhood nickname. "We had a bunch of local kids there. His high school coach was a good friend of mine and we've known him and watched him grow and are very, very proud of him.

"He would be fun to coach, there's no doubt about it. He's a winner and a great leader, and obviously a heck of a young quarterback."

Winston will be reunited with Arians on Sunday when the Bucs play at Arizona. Nothing has changed. He still is a heck of a good quarterback and on Wednesday was named the NFC offensive player of the week.

Winston passed for 281 yards and four touchdowns in the Bucs' 31-24 season-opening win at Atlanta on Sunday. Winston's touchdowns were to four different receivers — Brandon Myers, Charles Sims, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Mike Evans. He connected with eight different players in completing 23 of 33 with four touchdowns and one interception. His 122.6 passer rating was the third highest in the league.

"It's an honor, but I couldn't do it without those other (52) guys out there," Winston, 22, said of the award. "Our defense played an amazing game. No sacks. When the quarterback is not even getting touched in the back there, you've got to have fun back there in the pocket and everybody was just making plays. So it was definitely a team thing."

Offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken agrees. Winston worked hard in the offseason to change his body and is clearly more comfortable in the second year under Dirk Koetter, last year's offensive coordinator and now the head coach.

"I think it's a credit to him and the offseason he had preparing himself for the start of the season," Monken said. "I think it's a credit to the players around him. I think it takes everybody. You need protection, you need the guys catching the ball and being able to run the ball when you want to run it. So I think it's a group award obviously that Jameis earned, and he played a heck of a game."

It's a startling contrast to last season, when Winston threw four interceptions (including a pick six on his first pass) in the season opener against the Titans. In that game, Tennessee's Marcus Mariota, the player drafted No. 2 overall behind Winston, threw four touchdowns and wound up as the NFC offensive player of the month.

Recalling his encounter with Arians, Winston says he was impressed by his jewelry.

"I met him a couple times and one thing I just remember is him showing me those Super Bowl rings (two from his eight years with Pittsburgh) and I still haven't gotten one yet, so I'm shooting for that," Winston said. "He really motivated me to go after a Super Bowl ring. He showed me that Pittsburgh one, and it was gorgeous."

THIS AND THAT: New Bucs running back Jacquizz Rodgers was one of four players fielding kickoffs at the start of Wednesday's practice, along with safety Ryan Smith and receivers Adam Humphries and Cecil Shorts. Rodgers had 49 kickoff returns in Atlanta from 2012-14 when Koetter was the Falcons' offensive coordinator. … The Bucs lost defensive end Jacquies Smith to a season-ending knee injury Sunday, but no players on the 53-man roster were held out of Wednesday's practice. … Rookie tight end Danny Vitale had his first practice since joining the Bucs' practice squad. He had been waived by the Bucs and claimed by the Bills, who diagnosed a torn labrum in his shoulder and waived him. "It's great to be back here," Vitale said. "This is where I want to be. It's a great situation for me."

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