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Koetter makes it clear: Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting QB during Winston suspension

Veteran who started three games last season gets work with No. 1 offense, will start in Bucs' first three games.
Ryan Fitzpatrick got all the work with the first-team offense in full-squad work in Thursday's first practice of Bucs training camp.
(CHRIS URSO | Times)
Ryan Fitzpatrick got all the work with the first-team offense in full-squad work in Thursday's first practice of Bucs training camp. (CHRIS URSO | Times)
Published Jul. 26, 2018
Updated Jul. 26, 2018

If there was any doubt who was stepping in at quarterback during Jameis Winston's three-game suspension, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter made it clear at Thursday's first practice that Ryan Fitzpatrick has the starting job.

Fitzpatrick got nearly all the work with the No. 1 offense in full-squad work as the team practiced in the indoor facility after nearby lightning forced them inside. Winston worked mostly with the No. 2 offense, though he worked some with the third unit as well, along with backup Ryan Griffin.

A year ago, Griffin was challenging Fitzpatrick to be the top backup, but Koetter was blunt when asked if there was any chance for Griffin to unseat Fitzpatrick and open the season as starter.

"It would have to be something that I can't foresee right now," Koetter said.

Fitzpatrick, 35, has a wealth of NFL experience, with 119 starts over 13 seasons and 26,991 career passing yards. The Bucs went 2-1 with Fitzpatrick filling in last year when Winston had a shoulder injury, though the wins came against the Dolphins and Jets, two lesser opponents.

Griffin, 28, has never taken a snap in an NFL game, but he's spent the last three years in Koetter's offense with the Bucs and drew praise from his coach.

"We think Ryan Griffin has a lot of upside," Koetter said. "I can't prove it, other than what I  see in practice and what I hear in meeting rooms. … in preseason, he'll get a chance to show himself."

Asked if the Bucs might bring in another veteran quarterback for depth during Winston's suspension to guard against an injury to Fitzpatrick, Koetter said "Ryan Griffin is a veteran quarterback."

Asked if Winston automatically returns as starting quarterback in Week 4, regardless of how the team fares under Fitzpatrick, Koetter said he isn't looking that far ahead.

"Week 4 is a long ways away," he said. "Let's worry about Week 4 in Week 4. Right now, let's worry about preseason and getting ready for the season."

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