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Bucs coach Lovie Smith says Jameis Winston will start at quarterback

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There will be no easing him in. There will be no biding his time. There will be mp watch-and-learn phase.

The Tampa Bay Bucs, as of now, are in the hands of Jameis Winston.

Even before the team’s first training camp practice, head coach Lovie Smith pronounced Winston as the team’s starting quarterback Friday. Oh, it wasn’t much of a surprise. The Bucs drafted Winston No. 1 in the draft and, already, most of the team’s marketing has surrounded him.

Over the years, however, a lot of teams have played it conservatively with their prized young quarterbacks, asking them to watch for a portion of their rookie seasons.

Not Smith, who is ready to point Winston toward the field and proceed.

“Jameis will be our starting quarterback,” Smith said. “He’ll take the first reps tomorrow. We’re excited about that.”

The Bucs, only 2-14 last year, will hope that Winston can play better than either Josh McCown (departed) or Mike Glennon (backup) could do a year ago. Winston was thrown right into the mix in his redshirt freshman season at FSU and starred, winning the Heisman Trophy.

“We brought him in to be our quarterback,” Smith said. “And we feel like he’s ready to take that next step.”

The notion of being groomed worked, say, for Aaron Rodgers. But Rodgers was on a team with Brett Favre. Smith thinks it is time for the learning to begin.

“We feel like we’ve let Jameis go through a process,” Smith said. “Getting limited reps, working with both groups. Eventually, you have to put them in the lead position and let them go.”

Smith pointed out that it wasn’t all about the quarterback, that the Bucs had to play better around him, particularly in the running game. The Bucs’ running backs struggled last year. So did its offensive line.

Smith talked about Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who has played well for the Seahawks since his rookie season. “They didn’t ask him to do it all at first,” he said. “He did more and more.” It was that way when rookie Kyle Orton played for Smith with the Bears. Chicago had a good defense and a good running game.

For a rookie, especially one with great hype, the NFL can be an adjustment. There is a new playbook to learn, and new coaches, and new teammates. There is managing expectations. There are the opponents.

“I would never put a guy in that position if he wasn’t ready,” Smith said. “Everyone talks about a mentor. Jameis doesn’t need a mentor. He’s ready to take the reins and go with it.”

He’s ready to be a quarterback and take all the criticism that goes with it.”

Overall, Smith said, the Bucs still had the same goals as last year: To win its first game, to win the NFC South and to win the Super Bowl.

“We’re going to be a good team,” he said.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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