Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston and the head-butt: Immature or Tom Brady-esque?

I Googled "Jameis Winston'' and "head butt.''

In case you missed it Sunday, Jameis head-butted linebacker Justin Durant after Durant tackled Doug Martin for a loss deep in Dallas territory.

Winston's head-butt pushed the Bucs back 15 more yards and Tampa Bay had to settle for a field goal.

Winston called it "competing.''

The Google search turned up other less flattering words:

Cheap shot. Dumb. Lost his cool. Frustrated. Weak. Unnecessary.

And on it went. It's hard to make a good argument against any of those reactions. At the time, I tweeted that it was "really stupid.''

But now, a couple of thoughts in defense of Winston.

First, most of those critical comments were made by folks sitting four stories above the field or in their living rooms. The comments were made far from the violent and emotional wrangling on the field.

It's easy to criticize a player for sticking up for a teammate when you're not playing and it's not your teammate. Emotional detachment makes for better decision-making.

Okay, so every game is violent and emotional and you don't see players delivering head-butts like it's the WWE. I get that.

But here's the other point: For months Bucs fans have bragged about Winston's leadership. We hear about his pregame pep talks and his postgame speeches. We pat him on the back for being a great teammate.

A big deal was made about a letter he wrote, pumping up the team for a huge victory in Kansas City that has been the starter pistol for Tampa Bay's race to the postseason.

The same drive that inspired the letter is the same fire that compelled him to stick up for a teammate. Call it heart. Call it intensity. Call it, as Winston did, competing.

It all comes from the same place.

That isn't meant to totally excuse the behavior. But we shouldn't have any problem that a second-year player acted like, well, a second-year player.

This is who Winston is for right now, and we can't applaud him for inspiring his teammates with a passionate letter then criticize him for showing the same fury in the heat of a game.

Because he is 22 years old and could be still playing college football, we don't expect him to play like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. So why should we expect him to act like those guys, either?

By the way, have you watched Brady? He yells at assistant coaches and he's called "fiery.'' He chews out a teammate for not running out a route and he's called "competitive.'' He barks at an official and we say he's "amped.''

So Winston sticks up for a teammate who was being roughed up and he's "immature?''

Cut Winston a little slack. Would you rather he sulk around like Cam Newton when things aren't going his way?

I'm not suggesting that it's okay for Winston to go around picking up unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on a regular basis. But I also think we need to appreciate that this is all part of the development, all part of his growing.

How about looking at Winston like this: As long as he's still playing under his rookie contract, we should expect that he is occasionally going to do rookie things.

That includes interceptions, wrong reads and, maybe, even the occasional head-butt.

     
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