TAMPA — The Bucs began their mandatory mini-camp Tuesday, and even newcomer Jason Pierre-Paul's alarm clock worked. Then there is the mandatory Bucs quarterback. Jameis Winston is on his own clock. It's half past winning, and he knows it.
"I think everything in life comes down to, are you winning or are you losing?" Winston said. "At the quarterback position, in any athletics, it's about winning games. Winning games will make people forget a lot of things. (Losing) games will make people bring up unnecessary things."
I'm not sure that's entirely true in Winston's case, especially given the current limbo conditions. We still don't know if the NFL's Uber investigation will delay the start of Winston's fourth season, whether it's one game, two games or four games. We just don't know. Neither does Winston.
And I'm not sure we'll forget the off field if he does it on the field.
But let's try it, shall we?
Winston lost once at Florida State, his last one, in the Rose Bowl against Marcus Mariota and Oregon. Mariota, No. 2 in the Jameis draft, took Tennessee to the playoffs last season. Winston is 18-27 as a starter in three seasons with the Bucs, including a step-back 3-10 in 2017. He's 24, still a young man. But those lonely 18 wins and 27 losses are the story, fair or not.
Winston has thrown 69 touchdown passes in the three seasons, which is not bad. He has thrown 44 interceptions, which is not good. He has had his leadership moments, several of them. But it all comes down to winning and how much of that you do determines how good a quarterback you are.
That's the NFL. Zero sum.
How many quarterbacks, or players, enter 2018 with more pressure on them than Winston? He has to produce this time around or the whole thing goes over the falls without a barrel. Winston's accuracy is one thing, but Winston winning is everything.
Video: Bucs QB Jameis Winston says his work ethic is “unparalleled,” but he still wants to improve on that, on and off the field. pic.twitter.com/HD3yl5LcL7— Greg Auman (@gregauman) June 12, 2018
It isn't about licking fingers. The Bucs need to order a big helping of winning, and the order rides on Winston's arm and head.
"From Year 1 to Year 2 I had improvement on what matters most," said Winston who went 9-7 as an NFL sophomore. "I declined last year. I definitely have to get back up on winning."
Ever wonder what kind of Winston we'd be talking about if he had never had off-field troubles in Tallahassee or this latest mess? The guy should be doing commercials on national TV. Instead, he is still trying to find his game, away from the cameras, far from Hard Knocks.
Tuesday, it was shorts, no pads. Soft Knocks. Winston in limbo. He pays it no mind.
"My focus has remained with this offseason and with this team," he said. "My concentration still remains with this organization and our team."
Later, he added, "My work ethic is unparalleled. When it comes to on and off the field, I do everything in this community and for this football team that I possibly can to get better now. I'm trying to look to improve in anything I need to do. And if you think I need to get better, then I'll get better."
Video: Jameis Winston throws deep to Chris Godwin early in Tuesday’s practice at Bucs mandatory minicamp. pic.twitter.com/D71ZcurRcG— Greg Auman (@gregauman) June 12, 2018
While I'm not so sure Winston's work ethic is unparalleled (lots of players work hard, and I hear Sisyphus was a gamer), I will say that at this point Winston's desire and devotion to being great keeps me thinking that one day there will be a bright light and it will all come together. Plus, his teamwork is for real. When Pierre-Paul arrived at One Buc Place, finally, Winston found him. He should find DeSean Jackson so easily.
"I came in and he was one of the first guys I talked with, besides Lavonte David, who I went to junior college with. That means a lot," Pierre-Paul said. "I think building chemistry with a team and teammates starts with talking. He's a great quarterback and a great leader."
It's a big year for Winston.
"I'd like to see the coach who stands up here and it's not a big year for a team," coach Dirk Koetter said. "It's a big year for everybody."
It's bigger for Winston. A suspension to start this season couldn't possibly help.
The man needs Ws.
"It's not really about the outside sources," Winston said. "It's about us collectively, as a team, getting together, backing each other, and going out there and executing and winning ball games. Just win more. When we lose, come together so we can win more."
We're down to that. So is Winston.
Contact Martin Fennelly at email@example.com or (813) 731-8029.