TAMPA — While praising DT Gerald McCoy as a veteran leader last season, QB Jameis Winston said Thursday that he asked the four-time Pro Bowl player to "bring it up a notch" as a more vocal presence with him guiding Tampa Bay in 2016.
"I just talked to him after the season … I believe Gerald is a great leader to this team," Winston said after the Bucs' first practice of training camp. "I just know that he has a little bit more in him. You should have seen him out here working with Noah Spence and Kourtnei Brown, things he puts into these players, even me. He's put so much into me. I just asked him to keep doing it, bring it up a notch, step it up, just like I have to do, just like we all have to do … continue to be who you are. He's a (four)-time Pro Bowler. He's a great voice and everyone will listen to him."
McCoy said Wednesday that Winston had spoken to him about being a different kind of leader this season, declining to elaborate on what the change would be, but saying it would be "obvious" by his actions around the team this season.
"We need great leadership on this team," coach Dirk Koetter said Thursday. "We have some guys already that are strong leaders, (and) some guys that are developing as leaders. I think the fact that our team is talking about leadership is a positive."
BACK HEALTHY: The first practice Thursday also brought a sight not seen since the end of last season: Jacquies Smith lining up as a first-team defensive end, having fully recovered from the shoulder surgery that sidelined him the entire offseason.
"It feels good," Smith said of his first day back on the field. "Obviously I missed OTAs and stuff, and I've been missing being out their with the guys and doing my part. It's a great time to be back. The energy level, the vibe, I'm happy to be back."
The Bucs have actively upgraded at defensive end in the offseason, signing veteran Robert Ayers in free agency and using a second-round pick on rookie Spence. Smith, claimed off waivers from the Bills at the start of the 2014 season, has 13.5 sacks in two years with the Bucs and is excited about the higher level of play expected from the pass rush in 2016.
"The sky's the limit. It's very exciting with the new guys, and even our old guys getting better," Smith said. "You get better year by year, add stuff to your game, add stuff to your toolbox. Now we've got new coaches and we're just taking the tutelage we learn from Jay Hayes. I think it's a great time."
NOT QUITE YET: The only significant players not to begin training camp practice Thursday were G J.R. Sweezy and WR Louis Murphy, who are both on the physically unable to perform list but can be activated at any point.
Sweezy, who had an undisclosed surgical procedure shortly after signing with Tampa Bay as a free agent from Seattle, missed the entire offseason with an undisclosed injury. Murphy is recovering from a torn ACL.
"It's unfortunate in both cases that those two guys aren't able to be out here,'' Koetter said. "We were hoping everybody would be full go. … When you get to guys coming off ACLs, guys coming off different procedures … the timetable to get back is not always the same. Sometimes they have setbacks. What we can't do is rush guys that aren't ready to go. That can't do us any good because they're fighting it the whole year. I would hope that J.R. and Murph are out here as quickly as they can be but that's why we have team doctors."
With Sweezy out, third-year G/T Kevin Pamphile took first-team reps at left guard, as he did in the offseason.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Contact Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman and @NFLstroud.