TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to start Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback against the Chicago Bears on Sunday despite quarterback Jameis Winston returning from his three-game suspension, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.
The Buccaneers will reassess their quarterback situation during next week’s bye, before determining whether Fitzpatrick or Winston will start Oct. 14 at Atlanta, the sources said.
Winston returned to the team facility Tuesday — the players’ day off — and met with coach Dirk Koetter. He said he informed both Winston and Fitzpatrick of his plans, but he has not announced his plans publicly.
“We know what we’re going to do. Both guys know what we’re going to do. Hope everybody can appreciate that it doesn’t do us any good to tell our opponents what we’re going to do,” Koetter said at the time.
The prevailing feeling throughout the building all week — based on Fitzpatrick’s previous performances, practice reps and being on a short week — has been that Fitzpatrick will get the nod Sunday. Winston’s comments echoed that.
“I’m here to assist the best way I possibly can,” Winston said. “My passion for this team, my love for this team, goes beyond whether I’m out there throwing the football for this team or not.”
Even with a shaky performance on Monday Night Football, when he threw three interceptions, Fitzpatrick has gotten off to arguably the fastest start of any quarterback in the NFL. His 1,230 passing yards are the most in the NFL, while his 11 passing touchdowns are second only to Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes.
“I’ve seen the beards. When the guys throws for 400 yards, three games in a row, you gotta love that,” Winston said. “As a community, we gotta get behind this team. Because when we are winning, things are good — we gotta capitalize on that.”
During Winston’s suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, he was not permitted to practice at the team facility, but he brought in quarterbacks coaches George Whitfield and John Beck and longtime trainer Otis Leverette to help him maintain the same schedule he had with the Bucs. They conducted daily workouts for 2½ hours with 25 former teammates and free agents, including Nick O’Leary, Louis Murphy, Andre Davis and Bernard Reedy.
Winston was allowed to practice with the team for three days prior to being removed from the suspended list — the Bucs released wide receiver Freddie Martino to make a roster spot available.
“Hats off to Jameis for putting together a group of guys to do what he did,” Koetter said. “I was asking him if he had video because I’d really love to see it. I think it would be awesome. Jameis a quarterback, coach and GM all at the same time — perfect. I think there is a little adjustment period, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to move along as quickly as we can.”