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What 'Hard Knocks' revealed about Jameis Winston

With head coach Dirk Koetter looking on, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) prepares to throw a pass Wednesday at One Buccaneer Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
With head coach Dirk Koetter looking on, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) prepares to throw a pass Wednesday at One Buccaneer Place. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Aug. 10, 2017

TAMPA — Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston leaned forward in the red leather chair positioned directly in front Dirk Koetter's desk and asked the question that may come to define not only this season, but his career.

"As far as doing too much, I want to have a good understanding of how much is doing too much?" Winston said.

The exchange that followed was the most captivating and illuminating during the first episode of HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Okay. That's a great question," Koetter began. "And here's what I would say on that is we have a good defense now, so maybe we've got to cut our risk a little bit."

The 350 or so people attending the red carpet premier Tuesday night, along with several million watching at home, were treated to the secret sauce that every pro football team is trying to develop.

The NFL is a coach-quarterback league. Or perhaps more accurately, a quarterback-coach league.

Brady-Belichick. Rodgers-McCarthy. Carroll-Russell. Roethlisberger-Tomlin. Before that, Favre-Holmgren, Elway-Shanahan.

At 23, Winston already is an enormous talent. But he always has been a gunslinger who trusts his arm more than his eyes. His 43 turnovers in two seasons is a testament.

But in his typically candid way, Koetter informed Winston it's time to become more patient.

"Your M.O. in your career was, you've always been a risk taker, even if it got you in trouble in a game, you've been good enough or your team has been good enough to bail you out of it," Koetter said.

"And now, we have a good team. We have by the far the best team since you've been playing in the NFL and you are a guy that's able to win a game. But also, we don't need you to lose a game for us. You're the only guy that can lose a game for us, I mean because no one else touches the ball enough.

"So there's a fine line there. You're a great competitor but we've got to get some patience in there," Koetter said. "Now we need you to be a great quarterback."

Then the Bucs coach evoked the game's contemporary greats.

"You play a different style quarterback than Tom Brady. You play a closer style to Aaron Rodgers. Both great quarterbacks. Both will be in the Hall of Fame," Koetter said. "Now it's time, even though they've got years on you, you've got to play like that. Because, shoot, that's just the way this league is.

"They don't care if you're 23 or 39. To get the respect you want and to go where our team wants more than anything."

In press conferences, Koetter is quick to remind everyone that Winston is only 23. But "they don't care," is the reality.

So much is expected of Winston as the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. It certainly doesn't seem too big for him.

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NFL Films did a great job showing the arm strength, the footwork and the play-making ability of Winston, often in slow-motion. But things happen very quickly in this league, and it sped up on Winston one day during training camp.

Not only did he miss some receivers, he made some horrible decisions that resulted in interceptions, including one that would've been returned for a touchdown.

Koetter lit into Winston, telling him what he had done was "bull (expletive)."

Winston said nothing. What seemed like a minute passed in uncomfortable silence. Not one teammate approached the Bucs quarterback to pick him up. You know Koetter's words were echoing in Winston's helmet.

"We've got to get some patience in there. Now we need you to be a great quarterback."

Brady and Rodgers are on the schedule this season.

Meanwhile, Winston still wonders: how much is too much?

Contact Rick Stroud at @NFLStroud


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