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  1. Bucs

Jameis Winston ‘disappointed’ for letting down fans, teammates and himself

Winston said the turning point for him came when his son was born, one day after the NFL announced his three-game suspension.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) speaks with reporters after Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice Thursday, July 26, 2018 in Tampa. Winston is allowed to practice with the team and can play in the preseason games but has been suspended from playing in the first three regular season games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. (CHRIS URSO | Times)

TAMPA — For all the reasons Jameis Winston listed why he has to change his behavior, this one may be the best.

On June 29, the day after the NFL suspended him for three games, Winston's son was born to his fiancée Breion Allen.

"I feel like this is really a spiritual attack because my son was born the day after the decision was made," Winston said Thursday. "So seeing things from a different perspective and learning that I'm going to have to teach that man how to respect women and how to live his day to day life, I really took it upon myself to be proactive and make sure I'm being a great example for him and my fiancée."

Winston's history of not respecting women — he was accused but never charged of raping Erica Kinsman while the two were students at Florida State and later settled a civil suit — has finally caught up to him on the football field. He will miss the Bucs' first three games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after the league said he touched an Uber driver in March 2016 in an "inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent."

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After the Bucs first training camp practice Thursday, Winston spoke publicly for the first time about the incident that has cost him his starting job, his status as the team's franchise quarterback and likely his standing in the community.

Sounding contrite but also defiant at times, Winston said he apologized to teammates Wednesday and vowed to learn from his mistake.

"I'm very disappointed," Winston said. "I know a lot of fans are disappointed. But at the end of the day, the league made their decision and I have to put this behind me and grow and learn from it.

"I just learned you can't put yourself in these situations. This happened after my rookie year. I think I've made a lot of positive changes since then."

Then again, Winston has been in a sorry state before.

When he was caught taking crab legs from a Tallahassee Publix without paying while at Florida State, he said, "I realize that I am in the public spotlight and my conduct needs to be above reproach. I make no excuses for my actions and will learn and grow from this unfortunate situation."

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When Winston made a sexually lewd comment on the FSU campus in Sept. 2014, and was suspended one game against Clemson, of course he had more remorse.

"First of all, I want to apologize to the university, my coaches and to my teammates," Winston said at the time. "I'm not a 'me' person, but in that situation, it was a selfish act, and that's not how you do things around here.

"I want to apologize to my teammates because I have now made a selfish act for them. That's all."

That wasn't all.

On Thursday, Winston relied heavily on the fact that the Uber incident occurred nearly 2 ½ years ago. He talked about how much he has grown since then, how much good he has done in the community working with kids and building his Dream Forever foundation.

But it was only in November, after Buzzfeed reported Winston was under NFL investigation, that Winston said the Uber driver was "confused,'' about the number of passengers and that the allegations were false.

When asked if he wasn't being truthful then or did his memory improved, Winston sidestepped the question.

"Again, I don't want to rehash the situation,'' he said. "All I can do is focus on moving forward and putting this all behind me.''

And when Winston says "behind me," he means with the allegations of sexual assault, the crab legs and the vulgar chant.

What's ahead for Winston?

Well, he has to earn back the trust of his head coach.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter didn't mince words when asked about Winston's suspension and the impact it may have on the season.

"It's disappointing that Jameis put himself in that position and put our team in that position, " Koetter said. "But at this point, it's done and we have to deal with it."

The Bucs made the decision not to use Winston in any promotional material, going so far as to not feature him on one of the four giant player murals adorning Raymond James Stadium.

"I think your team has a lot of leaders," Koetter said. "And being a leader starts with being a leader of yourself. I talk to guys about that often. I think that's one of Jameis' strengths as a football player is his leadership. But right now where we're standing with the three-game suspension, it's time that Jameis leads from the rear and there's nothing wrong with that."

During the team's first training camp practice Thursday, Winston learned what he has cost himself on the field. Ryan Fitzpatrick took nearly all the snaps  with the first-team offense. Backup Ryan Griffin worked with the second team while Winston worked in and out with all three offensive units.

"If nothing crazy happens, Fitz will be our planned starter," Koetter said. "So Ryan Griffin is the backup, so he's one play away.''

Winston said he understood why he no longer was leading the starting offense. He will be eligible to practice and play throughout the preseason. But following the final preseason game, he won't return until the week leading up to the Bucs' Sept. 30 game at Chicago.

"As a teammate first, I understand it's about this team and I'm going to be there for Fitz as much as I can," Winston said. At the same time, he said, "I don't want to be a distraction."

It may be a little late for that.

Contact Rick Stroud at stroudbucs@aol.com. Follow @NFLStroud

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