Winston will be active, but will he be able to play?

by Gary Shelton on October 20, 2017 · 0 comments

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Winston  hopes to play despite shoulder injury./JEFFREY S. KING

Winston hopes to play despite shoulder injury./JEFFREY S. KING

Friday, 4 a.m.

Will Jameis Winston play on Sunday?

Should he?

Winston, the Bucs' young quarterback, is nursing a sore throwing shoulder. Meanwhile, the rest of the Tampa Bay Bucs' football organization is playing I've Got a Secret.

There are arguments going on. There is debate. There is conversation. And so far, no one's right. Because no one has any idea just how well Winston will be by Sunday. Make no mistake. This one may go right up until the coin flip before the Bucs decide.

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Hint No. 1: Bucs coach Dirk Koetter says he plans for Winston to take all of the snaps with the No. 1 offense today. That means, flatly, that backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick won't take snaps with the No. 1 team.

Hint No. 2: The Bucs declined to bring in another quarterback this week. That means Winston will be active as the first or second quarterback on Sunday.

Hint No. 3: Koetter also says he's thinking about Winston's long-term health, and it hasn't been that long since Winston has hurt against Arizona.

Hint No. 4: Pressed by the media, Winston reluctantly admitted that, yes, he has a shoulder injury. Sources would not confirm it.

Hint No. 5: The Bucs are 2-3, and they could use Winston. But what if Winston is say, 70 percent? What if he's 50 percent? Are the Bucs better off it he plays and is unable to throw the ball downfield?

So here's the question. If the Bucs are counting on Winston to be active, then why announce that he isn't starting too soon? And if Winston's injury evaluation isn't as bad as previously feared, then why let the Bills know that he is starting?

“Jameis did not throw today," Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter said Thursday. "We made a decision to hold him for another day from throwing. He did everything else, and I fully expect that Jameis takes all the snaps tomorrow. All the snaps with the ones."

So far, Winston has started every game for the Bucs since he arrived. He'd like for that streak to continue. However, an AC joint (shoulder) injury isn't a stubbed toe.

"My thought process is to play — that’s my thought process," said Winston. "I’m going by what they tell me. I’m going by how we work together and see what happens. It’s a joint decision. Everybody is going to have their say. Ultimately, whatever happens on Sunday happens."

Backup Fitzpatrick played four years in Buffalo and left with a 20-33 record. Fitzpatrick came off the bench last week and threw for 290 yards and three scores (and two interceptions).

"I thought he did pretty darn well for a guy that didn’t get one rep since we were playing in the preseason," said offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “That’s why you bring a guy in that is really smart, that is a veteran, that doesn’t always need all of those reps, that has seen a variety of offenses. There are only so many ways you can run a curl flat, and flood routes, and four verticals and screens — it’s still about timing and accuracy and some of the nuances with your players.

Thoughts? Even if Winston plays, the Bucs would love to get him out of the game quickly. But this is the NFL, and a lopsided score isn't likely.

The guess here is that Fitzpatrick starts and plays as long as the Bucs lead or the game is within a field goal. If Winston physically can play, he would come into the game if the Bucs fell behind by two scores. That's the best case, and it means that Winston doesn't have a full-blown sprain.

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