Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: Is Jameis Winston the Bucs' leading voice?

Jameis speaks.

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, apparently, does a lot of talking. Well, except to local media.

He didn't speak when Lovie Smith was fired. He didn't show up to speak at the news conference in which new coach Dirk Koetter was hired. He hasn't said anything to anyone in the Tampa Bay media since the season ended. But he did speak with Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King for a piece published Tuesday on its web site.

In it, Winston explained that he does most of the talking with the Bucs, that he has become the franchise's main voice.

Not Gerald McCoy. Not Lavonte David. Not Vincent Jackson.

Jameis.

"At the beginning of the season, Clinton McDonald was talking to the team, and then when he got injured, I became the main voice, because nobody else said anything,'' Winston told King.

Not sure how that quote is going to go over with McCoy and David, especially McCoy, the highest-paid Buc who fashions himself as a team leader and the chief voice on the team.

"It was basically just me and (rookie linebacker) Kwon (Alexander) in the huddle,'' Winston said, "and we were talking and trying to get guys pumped up about the game.''

Now maybe Winston was talking about a specific game or a particular time, such as the Nov. 1 game at Atlanta when Winston made an impassioned speech in support of Alexander, whose brother was murdered two days earlier. It's also true that he and Alexander are tight, both being from Alabama and breaking into the NFL together. Winston also pointed out that Jackson and veteran guard Logan Mankins allowed Winston to take the leadership role, especially in the huddle.

Nevertheless, it would appear that Winston fancies himself as the Bucs leader and you know what? That's how it should be. In fact, there would be something wrong if he wasn't the leader and main voice.

The Bucs used their No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft to take Winston to be the franchise quarterback. They are looking to him to be the player who saves the franchise. They are looking for him to, well, lead the franchise. We can't criticize him for trying to lead.

While he might not have the resume of a Tom Brady or Cam Newton or Drew Brees, he means as much to Bucs as those quarterbacks mean to their teams. If this organization is going to do anything in the near future, it's going to be because Winston is the man — on the field, in the huddle, in the locker room, in the community and in front of the media.

"I think I am kind of the voice right now,'' Winston told King, "but I still have a long way to go.''

That's true. Winston was good, but not great. He made mistakes on the field and didn't always say the right things off the field. Yet, also on Sports Illustrated's web site on Tuesday, was a column wondering how the 2015 draft would look if every team could pick again knowing what they know now. Winston was still the No. 1 pick.

There's also this: Winston has made strong strides, at least as far as we know, in proving he can be trusted off the field after a checkered time at Florida State.

He tells King that he realizes the responsibility he now has as the face of the franchise.

"In the NFL, not only am I the face of a community, but people know my face,'' Winston said. "People are looking up to me basically as a springboard for the Tampa Bay community. Every time I go out and I have a chance to make a difference or make someone smile, I try to do that to the best of my abilities. In college, I could try to do that, and no matter what, it would mean something, but everyone just wanted something from me. Give me that, Jameis, gimme, gimme, gimme. In the NFL, I can be myself, and everyone doesn't have their hand out. In the NFL, I wasn't the best player in the league. I just do what I do."

I'm the voice of the team.

I'm the face of the community.

People look up to me as the springboard for all of Tampa Bay.

That certainly comes off as arrogant, but he's not wrong.

He's the most important player on Tampa Bay's most relevant team in the country's biggest sport. That makes him Big Man on Campus. Or, in this case, Big Man About Town.

The Lightning currently has more success than the Bucs and Steven Stamkos is the town's most accomplished current athlete. The Rays play the national pastime and Evan Longoria, Chris Archer and even Kevin Kiermaier have become local stars.

But Jameis is the quarterback. Doesn't get any bigger than quarterback, does it?

"I have the opportunity to affect a community, I got an opportunity to change lives and give people a sense of hope,'' Winston said. "That's something I like to do. That's how I want to live my life — flying under the radar, affecting people, doing the right thing and just playing football."

When Winston talks, people listen.

Read his comments to King and it's clear that Winston was none too pleased that Lovie was fired as head coach. But, if anyone was going to replace Lovie, Koetter was Winston's only choice.

Winston said he made the game too complicated. He said he learned how costly turnovers are. He said he needs to work on his footwork and that staying in shape this offseason is crucial.

He said a lot of things.

As long as he keeps on playing well, he can talk all he wants. In fact, we should want it that way.

Keep on talking, Jameis.

 
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