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Jones: Jameis Winston puts in the work even when no one's watching

Jameis Winston is up at 5:30 every morning, arriving early for practice and leaving late with nearly every minute of his time accounted for.
Jameis Winston is up at 5:30 every morning, arriving early for practice and leaving late with nearly every minute of his time accounted for.
Published Aug. 3, 2017

TAMPA — Practice has been over for a while now, but Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is still on the field.

While most of his teammates are headed for the air conditioning, Winston is throwing passes to wide receiver Freddie Martino.

Out patterns. In patterns. Go patterns.

Over and over and over.

No one is watching. Not coach Dirk Koetter. Not even the HBO Hard Knocks cameras, which seem to be everywhere, are around.

Then again, Winston isn't doing this to show off for Koetter or a national cable audience. He's doing it for himself. And his teammates.

The first preseason game is still more than a week away. The first regular-season game is still more than a month away. But progress is made in the little things, the tiny details. Progress is made in moments like Wednesday — an early training camp practice when no one is watching.

Say hello to the hardest-working football player in Tampa Bay.

Winston is up before the sun every day, eating breakfast at 5:30 so he can be the first player to arrive at One Buc Place. He's among the last to leave, turning off the meeting-room lights well after 9 p.m. Every moment of this long day is accounted for, almost to the minute. The effort is as taxing mentally as it is physically.

Meetings. Film sessions. Conditioning. Practice. Extra practice. More film sessions. More meetings. This is a typical training camp day for Winston.

Then, when the day is done, Winston can trace whether it was a good day or not.

"If I got better," Winston says immediately when asked how he tracks his progress. "Am I behind? Am I processing information that I need to process? Every time I watch film, I take a tally, 'Okay, did you get better today?' There are 31 other quarterbacks doing the same thing, 31 other quarterbacks going through practice and meeting rooms. What am I doing to make myself better than those other 31?"

It's so easy to look ahead. To the regular season. To the playoffs. To the rest of a career.

But that's where Koetter comes in, making sure Winston is focused not on what's next, but what's now. The current drill, the current film session, the current meal, the current weight session.

"Patience," Koetter said when asked what his daily message is to Winston. "Yeah, patience and understanding the situation that we're working on. … What he's working amongst other things is knowing the situation that we're practicing that day and how he has to subtly adjust his game accordingly."

It's an area Winston still is working on.

"Well, he has been good about it in real games," Koetter said. "Players have a tendency to say, 'practice a play, practice a play, next play, next play, next play.' Instead, Jameis really can't practice that way. For him to be as great as we want him to be and as great he wants to be, he's got to understand exactly where we are at in the game."

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He does seem to be getting better at it. Koetter called it, "Slow and steady progress."

And Winston?

"Things are kind of slowing down."

Slowing down is a good thing. But that word — patience — has become the theme of Winston's camp.

"Patience as a form of controlling everything," Winston said. "People use the term 'game manager' and that's really what it is. I always have to be calm, cool and collected. Everything can be going fast for others, but everything has to be slowed down for me. When I step in the huddle, I have to slow everything down no matter what happened the last play, no matter if we scored a touchdown, no matter if we had a turnover. I have to be the person that brings everybody together, be patient, calm and just put us on chill mode."

Chill mode.

Cool phrase and definitely what you want from your quarterback. It's just another way to say mature.

When you think of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, chill mode comes to mind.

And while Winston might not be quite at the level of Brady or Rodgers, he's inching closer. You can see a subtle change in him during this training camp.

He has always been charismatic. He has always been a leader. He has always been confident.

But, this camp, he seems more relaxed, more calm, more sure of himself.

Maybe that comes with age. He's now 23.

Maybe that comes with experience. He's now headed into his third NFL season.

Or maybe it comes with putting in all the work.

Even when no one is watching.

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