Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston enters uncharted territory on his four-year career.
Instead of leading the first-team offense in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, he’s now taking backup repetitions behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, whom head coach Dirk Koetter named the starter.
"I don’t think I’ve ever been benched," Winston said, via the Tampa Bay Times. "It’s humbling, and it’s definitely something I can grow from and learn from and you know what, it just adds to the story. I just have to keep working hard. Like I’ve said, every year my goal is to get better and better, and right now, I’m not getting the job done, so I have been replaced and I’m moving forward, yeah."
After serving a three-game suspension to start the season, Winston returned in Week 4 and replaced Fitzpatrick in the starting lineup against the Chicago Bears.
But the Buccaneers went 1-2 during Winston’s return and he was sent to the bench last week after throwing four interceptions, giving him a league-leading 10 on the season despite missing three games.
Winston, however, takes it in stride, pointing out that he can learn from the experience as part of the developmental process with a view to come back stronger.
"It’s a setback," Winston added. "But it’s a minor setback for a major comeback. It just tells you that you’ve got to continue to get better. I’ve never been in this situation before, so I have to learn from it and I have to grow from it. I have no choice."
The Buccaneers have options, though, as Winston mulls how to make a comeback.
If Fitzpatrick, who led the Buccaneers to a 2-1 record during Winston’s suspension, can recapture the magic he produced early in the season, the coaching staff might have a very difficult time reinserting Winston in the starting lineup.
Winston is 19-29 as the Buccaneers’ starter, while Fitzpatrick holds a 4-3 mark over the past two seasons as a starter in Tampa Bay.
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