Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, making an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday, spoke about quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension and how the Bucs can handle things in his absence.
"It's going to be tough. Jameis is the starting quarterback for a reason. He's the leader of our team," Brate said. "It's unfortunate for us that we're going to be without him for the first three games, but luckily we've got a guy like Ryan Fitzpatrick, who's seen it all in the NFL. We won two games with him starting last year, and he's going to step in, he's going to do a great job."
Brate was asked if Winston was a "good guy" in the locker room, given the time they've spent together over the last three seasons, and he didn't hesitate to endorse his teammate.
"I would say 100 percent, he is," Brate said. "There's things in his past that I can't speak of, and obviously don't know what happened really in Arizona with this Uber incident. But for me, all my experiences, all my interactions with Jameis have been awesome. I'm pretty close with him. We hang out outside of football and everything. I truly do enjoy spending time with him. He's caring, compassionate, the kind of guy you want to associate yourself with, as far as my experiences with him.
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"I can't speak too much to what's going on with everything else, because that's not really the Jameis that I know. For me, I still love him. I think he's a great teammate and I think I speak for a lot of guys in the locker room with that sentiment."
Brate, who turned 27 on Tuesday, talked about the offseason upgrades the Bucs made, especially on the defensive line. Tampa Bay will be shorthanded without Winston, but it's nothing they can't overcome.
"It's not the way we wanted the season to start, without Jameis, but we have guys who are going to step up and put us in good spots to win games," Brate said.
Brate and Fitzpatrick have a natural bond as two Harvard graduates, and he said it's nice to have another Ivy League diploma in the locker room.
"Football intelligence and book intelligence are two different things," he said. "For me, I probably fall more into the book intelligence. Guys kind of figure that out quickly about me. Getting Ryan was big for me, because it took a lot of pressure off of me. Ryan actually is super-smart both in football and books. Guys will look to Ryan for stuff and I get a free pass now."
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Brate has 14 touchdown receptions in the past two seasons and said he was excited to see the Bucs give him a longterm extension this offseason, even after drafting a tight end in the first round last year in O.J. Howard.
"He's extremely talented. I think he's going to be a great player," Brate said. "It says a lot about the Bucs trying to keep their core guys, guys who developed here in Tampa together. That's the big thing that Jason (Licht) and Dirk (Koetter) were telling me leading up to that contract extension."
Asked if he and Howard are the best tight end combo in the NFL, Brate pointed to New England's Rob Gronkowski and said "Gronk and whoever else is playing tight end for the Patriots is probably the best duo. He's such an unbelievable player."