Jameis Winston makes solid first impression on Bucs

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston practiced for the first time with the team Friday, May 8, 2015 at One Buc Place in Tampa. Photo by JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston practiced for the first time with the team Friday, May 8, 2015 at One Buc Place in Tampa. Photo by JAMES BORCHUCK | Times
Published May 15, 2015


After staying up until 1 a.m. studying his playbook, Jameis Winston was among the first to arrive at One Buc Place on Friday. He individually greeted his rookie teammates as they got off the bus with a warm smile, firm handshake and stern challenge.

"Get better," Winston told them. "We can't be 2-14 again."

Winston spread excitement and sprayed footballs during his first rookie minicamp practice. His passes weren't always perfect, but his message hit the mark. Overall, it was a good start for the NFL's No. 1 overall pick.

"I thought he had a typical first day," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "There were some balls he'd like to have back but we saw a lot of good things he did today."

Winston, 21, said he was more anxious than nervous for his first day as an NFL player, ending a stretch of more than five months without belonging to a team. He welcomed the scrutiny of his performance over the relentless debate about his character.

At 6 feet 4 and 231 pounds, Winston stood out as he brought the team up in the huddle. He seemed to respond well to instruction from quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who worked with him on feet placement and some mechanics.

"I grew up wanting to be a pro quarterback and I'm here today and I don't plan on stopping," Winston said.

During individual drills, some of Winston's throws were behind receivers he was working with for the first time. A few others sailed high. It wasn't the kind of performance you would put on an instructional video.

And wherever Winston goes as a rookie, he figures to draw a crowd.

Former Bucs general manager Mark Dominik and reporter Michele Steele were there for ESPN Friday. There were reporters from the NFL Network, USA Today and Yahoo Sports, to name a few.

"Love that dude. He's just infectious," said receiver Kenny Bell, a fifth-round pick from Nebraska. "His personality — he's actually my roommate for camp — you want to be around him. He's a great, positive dude. He lifts you up when you've made a bad play. He's just positive. He's an infectious personality that guys want to be around.

"Personality-wise, it doesn't get too much better. It's actually refreshing, because all the negative you've heard surrounding him, with everything that's happened, it's been awesome to get to know him and be his teammate."

Running back Dominique Brown, who played with Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville, was impressed with Winston's leadership.

"Humble," Brown said of Winston. "He's a great leader. When we first came to the complex, Jameis was outside, greeting all the rookies, himself just a rookie, just telling us 'Get better. We can't go 2-14 again.' "

Winston said that's how he would greet players before every game at Florida State.

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"It was an exciting time. So I was excited," Winston said. "I wanted to get everyone else involved."

Smith was not surprised. "Well, that's what makes him special," Smith said. "There are a lot of guys staying up right now, but most of the stuff Jameis does is unscripted. No one told him to greet his teammates. That's kind of who he is a little bit."

While most eyes were on Winston, some also spied the Bucs second-round picks. Penn State tackle Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet, from tiny Division III Hobart College, also are being counted on to start as rookies.

"He makes light of every situation and makes you comfortable and everything," Donovan Smith said of Winston. "As a quarterback, that is his job and he's doing a hell of a job already."

And having fun doing it.

"To play the game we love is basically a dream come true to everyone out here," Winston said. "It's exciting. It's Day One and we have to keep the tempo going, keep getting better. But it was exciting."