Former Bucs coach and current NFL analyst Tony Dungy said Friday that quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension is disappointing, but he still hopes the 24-year-old can learn from his mistakes moving forward.
"Obviously, it's disappointing, and you never want to have your leader not there and available for the team," said Dungy, who is promoting a new line of children's books he has written with his wife Lauren. "I'm sure he's disappointed about that, too. I think time will tell in how he handles it.
"You hope this comes through loud and clear and he says, 'I'm never going to put myself, my family, my team in this position again.' It's a tough one, and something you don't like to see. I think time will tell here."
The Pro Football Hall of Fame coach still calls Tampa home and said he has talked with Winston "quite a bit" in the three years since he was drafted. Dungy said he sees that Winston is active in the community, especially with children, but said he needs to send a consistent message in his actions.
"I know he has a good heart. He wants to do the right thing," Dungy said. "He's very aware of his role as a leader, his role as someone kids need to look up to. I think he knows the right things to do. Now he just needs to follow through on that with good decision-making."
Winston was suspended three games last month after a seven-month NFL investigation found that a female Uber driver's accusation that he groped her during a March 2016 ride was "consistent and credible." The investigation determined that Winston touched her "in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent." He apologized to his fans, teammates and the Bucs for "letting them down" with his suspension.
Dungy said when he was a coach, he would talk regularly with his team about the importance of making good decisions off the field, knowing a single negative action can outweigh much more positive work by a person or a team as a whole in a community.
"It's something I used to talk to my players about quite a bit," Dungy said. "Hey, we have 53 guys on the team. Fifty-two of them are going to do great things we won't hear about very much. If one person has a negative, that's what we're going to hear. So don't be the person with the negative.
"It's the same thing with an individual. You can do 52 great things, but if you do one bad thing, it ruins everything else. You have to be extremely careful when you're in the public eye and understand it's consistency and doing the right things that are important. We all have things we'd like to take back in our lives. You don't get to take them back when you're in the public eye, so you have to be very careful."
Dungy said he expects that Bucs ownership and leadership have made it clear with Winston what they expect from their players, and hopes the entire roster has a better understanding of that moving forward.
"I'm sure they've had a conversation with Jameis, and probably with everybody on the team: This is where we are, this is what we expect," Dungy said. "You do hope that everybody grows from this and learns from it."