TAMPA, Fla. — Months after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left Jameis Winston off the player murals outside Raymond James Stadium and out of the team promotional videos, they’re back to being all in with their quarterback.
The team released a new promotional video this week and Winston is not only featured, he’s in it all by himself.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 10, 2018
On Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Winston will make his first start since serving a three-game suspension for what the NFL concluded was a violation of its personal conduct policy, stemming from an alleged groping incident involving a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016.
The woman did not press charges but filed a civil suit last month.
“I’m thankful that I had the support of my teammates and the Bucs the entire time through the suspension,” Winston said Thursday. “It’s good that things are getting back to normal and we’re able to move forward from there.”
Winston was left out of the team’s marketing campaigns in July, just after the suspension was handed down by the NFL. Team sources expressed disappointment in Winston and said the decision to leave him out of the marketing campaigns was two-fold — they were concerned about optics, and they wanted the focus to be on the players who would be playing.
At the time, the Bucs said there was a possibility that he could participate in later campaigns. But prior to his suspension, general manager Jason Licht made it clear to Winston that his job was not promised when he returned.
Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for more than 400 yards in three straight games — an NFL record — while leading the Bucs to a 2-1 record. Winston said he doesn’t feel the weight of those performances or additional expectations from them, but he worked like it. He spent three weeks working out 2.5 hours daily with a group of 25 players currently out of the NFL to help simulate practices. He continued those practices during the bye week.
“I was talking to [offensive guard] Ali [Marpet] and [left tackle] Donovan [Smith] on Tuesday and I just told them, ‘Thank you. I don’t think y’all understand how much I miss you guys,'” Winston said. “I think I told y’all [media members] how much I miss y’all. Just being able to be back in the routine of things … I worked so hard for this opportunity.”
“Having it taken away from [me] briefly, it can make you reflect on things. Last year, when I had my shoulder injury, missing those three games was really tough for me. Even though I was happy that we had success, I had never been out of football, out of the loop. Every day is a blessing to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and play this great game. So I’ve gotta do my best to take advantage of this opportunity.”