TAMPA — A "silly mistake back in the day," Lavonte David called it. Ali Marpet said the Bucs were "one big family." Mike Evans said he was hurt by it, but called him "my boy," and one of his best friends.
Jameis Winston reported to training camp with all the other veterans Wednesday but he was not among the players discussing his three-game suspension.
Instead, the Bucs quarterback was the elephant in the locker room.
The plan is for Winston to speak about his suspension for violating the NFL's player conduct policy following Thursday's first workout.
So instead, the rollout to the 2018 season for the Bucs Wednesday was clunky, awkward and uncomfortable.
And when given the chance to have Winston personally address the matter and be done with it, well, the Bucs decided to shield their quarterback for at least one more day.
One by one, Winston's teammates were asked to answer for his actions. They were put in the unenviable position of speaking for a player who has potentially undercut the first three games of the season by touching an Uber driver in Arizona in 2016 in an 'inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent,'' according to the NFL.
Also unavailable was Dirk Koetter, who typically doesn't talk to the media until after the first practice.
If ever an exception to that tradition could've been made, it was Wednesday.
Marpet, an offensive lineman who gets paid to protect Winston, went first. He said he learned of the suspension last month when Winston called him.
"Yeah, so I was a little surprised by it,'' Marpet said. "You know, we've got a great football team and I think there's a lot of talented players and for the first three games, we'll have a different quarterback but again I think we'll do a really nice job. As a team we believe in Fitzy (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and there's a lot of very talented players that can step up.''
Video: Bucs’ Ali Marpet said his transition from center to left guard has gone well heading into training camp. pic.twitter.com/tNW2GgJjcr— Greg Auman (@gregauman) July 25, 2018
What did Winston tell Marpet about the suspension?
"We've talked and his mindset is how can he be the best teammate moving forward. I think he's doing that," Marpet said. "We all support him. We're one family. Obviously, we've been together for a little while now. Yeah, he's taken the right approach since the suspension.''
Marpet was asked if Winston should apologize to his coaches and teammates personally after doing so in his statement last month.
"I know he's having individual conversations with guys but he'll handle it how he thinks he should handle it,'' Marpet said.
Next up was receiver Mike Evans, who among other things, uses his charity to draw attention to the problem of domestic abuse.
Evans was asked how missing Winston for the gauntlet of opponents to start the season — at New Orleans, home against the Super Bowl champion Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football at Raymond James Stadium — might impact the start of the 2018 season.
Video: Bucs WR Mike Evans says he doesn’t think Jameis Winston’s suspension will impact Bucs’ season. “That’s my boy, one of my best friends.” pic.twitter.com/mcpHv3nwJb— Greg Auman (@gregauman) July 25, 2018
"I don't think it will impact it at all,'' Evans said. "That's my boy, one of my best friends. Obviously, I'm hurt by it. But we've been going to war together for three years, four years now. Missing those first three games, that's it and come back.''
Evans was asked if the nature of the incident was troubling to him.
"Yeah, I mean I don't know the whole situation and nobody does but the people that were there so I don't speak too much on that,'' Evans said. "I'm just happy that he's taking it well and look forward to having him back.''
Finally, it was time for David to speak and unfortunately he put his cleat in his mouth.
Video: Bucs LB Lavonte David says Jameis Winston had an “unfortunate situation” but teammates have his back during suspension and beyond. pic.twitter.com/8T1VRLvxXf— Greg Auman (@gregauman) July 25, 2018
"We just know it was a silly mistake back in the day,'' David said.
"It was a silly mistake. He knows it, we all know it. He knows we've got his back and he's going to learn from it because from whenever it happened until now, he's matured a lot. Jameis is a guy who is all about his business. He's going to come to work, do what's right. He's going to have your back and we're going to have his back. All he can do is keep his spirits up and we'll hold it down until he gets back.''
David was pressed about his depiction of sexual abuse as a "silly mistake.''
"Yeah, I think so. Just a bad judgment call by him,'' David said, recovering. "Bad judgment call by him because I know him personally. I know he's not the type of person from what I've seen and from what we talk about. I know he's just trying to become the best man he can be. He's engaged to his fiancée who just had a new young son.
"It happened a long time ago, but it was just a bad decision made by him but I'm positive, 100 percent sure he's going to learn from it.''