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Fennelly: Jameis, just avoid the Island of Misfit Toys (w/video)

As an NFC South quarterback, Jameis Winston has some very tough acts to keep up with.
As an NFC South quarterback, Jameis Winston has some very tough acts to keep up with.
Published Apr. 18, 2017

TAMPA — Jameis Winston arrived at One Buc Place on Monday for the start of the team's offseason conditioning program.

Winston's optimism is Week 1 ready.

"I'm going to be excited, man," Winston said. "I'm dreaming right now."

Now it's the long road to making dreams a reality.

The Bucs appear to be clearing the deck, removing all obstacles for their third-year franchise quarterback in the name of the playoffs and his progress. They signed DeSean Jackson. Next Thursday night, Winston might get another early Christmas present in the NFL draft, possibly a running back or tight end, maybe even his former Florida State teammate, Dalvin Cook.

The Bucs might give Jameis all sorts of toys to play with.

Now all he has to do is take the next step … in the league's toughest QB division, the NFC South. All he has to do is match Cam Newton and Matt Ryan, the last two NFL MVPs, who both took their teams to the Super Bowl. The guy we haven't mentioned, Drew Brees, is a mortal lock for Canton.

"I definitely have to step up," Winston said. "Like you said, there are a lot of expectations. When you're facing guys like Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan week to week, you've got to elevate your game or you're going to get left in the dust."

What have you got for us next, Jameis?

Is there an NFL quarterback with more expectations on his shoulders?

I bet Winston welcomes the expectations. Likewise the possibility of the Bucs getting star treatment in HBO's Hard Knocks. Coming off 9-7, the Bucs — and Winston — are expected to leave people in the dust, not the other way around.

Winston threw for 4,000 yards in 2016, just as he did in his rookie season. He threw 28 TD passes. But he'll have to step up even more and cut down on those turnovers (18 interceptions last season).

There were Winston high points this offseason. Like Jackson's arrival.

"He's like a Bentley with a Ferrari engine," Winston said.

Another high point was Winston going to practice with several teammates (including Jackson and Mike Evans) and with perennial Pro Bowl runner Adrian Peterson at Peterson's Houston workout facility.

"Just being able to be in the presence of someone who many consider the greatest back, especially this generation, my generation, just being able to learn and see his work ethic and see the way he works," Winston said of Peterson, entering his 11th season. "You really know why he's great. You know why he could play at a high level in this league for so long. Which helps me, because I want to be great, I want to be considered one of the best players in the league. It's very eye opening to me and very motivating."

There was a low point. But Winston rallied even then. He lost his grandmother, Myrtle Winston, to Type 2 diabetes on March 19. On April 8, Myrtle's grandson again participated in a Tampa 5K to help raise funds and awareness for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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Winston ran the 3-mile walk.

"Just being able to run for her and all the kids and even Ben Milsom, our chief ticketing officer, who has Type 1 diabetes," Winston said. "It really hit me here, because you have a true passion, to turn Type 1 into Type none. There was so much that was bigger than me. I was running for my family and for the people struggling with Type 1 diabetes."

As for possibly making the cut for Hard Knocks

"You've got to cherish the opportunity that you've got," Winston said. "The whole world gets to see how great an organization this is. Our job is to play football. They add the glitz and the glamour that goes with it. It's an amazing show, but we've got to play football."

High expectations for Jameis Winston is the true reality show.

Playoffs or dust.