At 7:08 a.m. this morning the sun rose over the eastern horizon. The earth was still clocked in rotating around the sun at its normal 67,000 mph, and the huge Bucs flag west of the practice field was starting to wake up and began to stir with the early morning breeze.
But for those who have been around since the summer of 2015, there was a strange feeling happening at One Buc. For the first time in three years, the animated voice and gregarious personality of Jameis Winston was nowhere to be found.
And it was weird.
Head coach Dirk Koetter was the first to point out the missing Winston.
“It was a little bit (weird). I think I noticed it the most when I walked in the quarterback room when we broke down for individual meetings and went in the quarterback room,” Koetter said. “I mean, it’s been a long time since Jameis hasn’t been camped out up in the front row next to his computer. It was a little bit strange, but we knew this was coming, and we planned for it. Now we’ve just got to do it.”
For anyone who has been living under a rock, Winston will miss the first three games of the 2018 season after being suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy following an eight-month investigation in an alleged groping incident that took place in 2016 in Phoenix.
Bucs tight end Alan Cross, whose locker is just three down from Winston’s, agreed with his head coach.
“It’s weird not seeing J around, but, it’s part of the business,” Cross said. “They say you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable and I guess you could say that’s kind of an uncomfortable scenario, so you’ve got to kind of act like everything is cool. It’s weird but you’ve got to get used to it.”
Long time Bucs guard Evan Smith noticed something out of place when he arrived at the team’s headquarters on Monday morning.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston and LG Ali Marpet – Photo by: Getty Images
“I guess the biggest thing for me was, when I pulled in in the morning, I didn’t see his truck,” Smith said. “Usually we’re one of the first two guys in for breakfast so I always walk in and he’s eating. Little things like that, but like I said, he’ll be back soon enough. I know he’s doing what he needs to be doing right now. It’ll be weird for a little bit but as it always is, we soldier on and we’ve got to go about our business because we get paid to do a job.”
Wide receiver Adam Humphries, who came into the league with Winston in 2015 also used the word weird when talking about No. 3 missing on Monday.
“It’s really weird for me. Being with him for, going on my fourth year now. When he’s in the building he brings a certain kind of presence because you’re not going to walk by Jameis and not say hello or have a conversation with him because he’s just that kind of guy. It was weird. When I usually walk into the weight room, where I just was, I usually see Jameis in there doing something so now, dang, it’s weird, Jameis isn’t here.”
The team’s longest tenured player, tackle Demar Dotson spoke about not having Winston around on Monday.
Demar Dotson – Photo by: PewterReport.com
“It is hard, because we were in the team meeting today and you just happen to look over there and you see two quarterbacks sitting over there and Jameis’ chair empty, so it’s kind of a reality thing like, damn, he’s really not here,” Dotson said. “It’s a little shocking because you’re so used to his presence.
“One thing about Jameis, despite what people said about him coming into this league, Jameis is a good guy. One thing I love about him the most, not just as a football player, is how he conducts himself around the building. He’ll go up to, let’s just say, the lawn guy, but he’ll call him by his name. He knows people by their first name. Like Nate, who pushes stuff or a trashcan around here and he says, ‘What’s up, Nate?’ Where most people wouldn’t know these people’s names, but he takes a family approach and calls people by their names. What can that do for a guy like Nate, or somebody, to say, ‘Hey, man. Jameis called me by my name.’
“That’s just kind of like person of the year. I respect that more than I do him as a football player.”
Even us media media members, who are used to hearing playful trash talking from Winston to his teammates about their alma maters felt the odd “lack of presence” from Winston during our 45-minute open locker room period. Like an injury though, the team will have to adapt the next three weeks, and plan to work just as hard, if not harder.
“It’s weird but we’re going to work our butts off for him,” Humphries said. “And try to get some wins for him.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.