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  1. Bucs

The trouble with Jameis' finger-licking, finger-jabbing leadership

Can we get some grown-ups here?

Jameis Winston's finger-licking bad pregame speech in New Orleans — "That's a W. Let's eat one!" — clearly left teammates baffled, judging by their reaction, or lack of it. Did they even know what he was saying? Did any of us?

Winston has run out of material or breath or both.

It might be too late to tell him to just shut up and play, seeing as he'll sit out the next couple of games because of his bad shoulder. But I don't think I can watch him forcing faux leadership. Granted, if the Bucs were 6-2, not 2-6, it wouldn't seem as silly.

The TV cameras were right there with Winston on the Superdome rug before he and the Bucs embarrassed themselves against the Saints. Jameis uttered pointless nonsense.

I don't doubt that he loves pumping guys up. And it's often sincere. His teammates genuinely like him.

But he is officially off the rails, like his team, like this season.

Frankly, I'm tired of TV showing his speeches. Exhausted, in fact.

Dirk Koetter needs to reel in his QB. These next couple of weeks are important. Winston could use them, not only to rest, but to reassess. Watch practice. Watch some game film. Watch some of your speeches — and see if anyone is listening anymore.

The bigger problem Sunday was Winston's in-game behavior. After he was pulled from the disaster because of his ailing shoulder, he stepped onto the edge of the field to confront Saints rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore — from behind. Lattimore pushed Winston before Lattimore was blind-sided by Mike Evans, who was suspended for one game Monday.

"I just let my emotions get the best of me," Evans said after the game. "Something I shouldn't have (done). It was very childish."

Jameis started it. I blame him.

He needs to keep his fingers out of his mouth and to himself.

He needs to act like a leader.

The Bucs looked like bratty children.

I recently wrote that I'd take Winston over Panthers quarterback Cam Newton partly because Jameis was more mature. I'll stand by that. But Winston didn't do himself any favors Sunday.

You can make all the speeches you want, but if you act like a clown, people will follow you in that direction, too, and act like clowns.

I'm tired of hearing about Jameis the Leader. And I'm tired of the narrative of Jameis the Competitor. Think Saints quarterback Drew Brees doesn't lead and compete?

Maybe we should blame HBO's Hard Knocks, which amounted to a Bucs Infomercial, heavy on Jameis glorification.

There is now no doubt that some Bucs inhaled the Hard Knocks fumes, along with all those preseason predictions of greatness. Some breathed in quite deeply.

I only know that Winston should ratchet down his talk and emotion and worry about his performance. Lead by example.

Winston is the franchise, and if he goes down, the franchise goes with him. Certainly, the head coach and general manager do. They go anyway.

This team is going nowhere if Winston can't keep it together. 2-6 is an excellent facsimile of nowhere in this, Winston's third season.

Yes, his shoulder is a problem. And his team has no running game, is weak on both lines, can't pressure the quarterback and has a shaky secondary. But the immaturity of this team is a major problem, and the coaches don't seem capable of doing a thing about it. Winston's erratic play and his renewed erratic behavior doesn't help.

Being a leader is about more than fourth-quarter comebacks, or winning and losing. It's definitely more than mindless talk and licking your fingers.

It's time for the grown-ups.

Lead the way, Jameis.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029

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