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For the Bucs, improvement begins with quarterback Jameis Winston

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For the Tampa Bay Bucs, getting better  starts with the quarterback.

The next item on the agenda? More improvement by the quarterback.

For the Bucs, the focus is all about second-year quarterback Jameis Winston. It is his improvement that will determine whether the team can improve on its six-win total of a year ago. Oh, there are other parts to the team, but on the Bucs, they are all on the next level.

“Just Jameis, the way he handles every single day,” said coach Dirk Koetter. “I thought he did a great job today of taking what the defense gave him. He checked the ball down, he threw it deep when they called for him to throw it deep – he knew exactly where to go with the football. And just to be under control. I don’t think Jameis turned it over at all today. A year ago at this time we were still worried how many times Jameis was going to turn it over every day. It looks like we’re past that stage. Jameis is now not a rookie, Jameis is the leader of our football team.”

 Even at the start of camp, Koetter says he has noticed Winston’s leadership.

“Yes, it impressed me,” Koetter said. “It jumps out at you. Jameis is a special guy. I might have been one of the last people on board, but I’m fully on board now and it’s nice, it’s a great thing to have. He sets the tone for our team. We have a lot of good football players on our team, but from a leadership standpoint Jameis sets the tone.”

Winston says he needs to be better.

“Everything in my game,” Winston said. “I don’t believe that right now is the time for me to just focus on one thing. We have a long time until the season. I have to get better at everything from footwork to keep maintaining my body, staying in shape, pocket presence, there’s a lot of things that I have to do to get better. And I’m going to keep getting better my whole career – it’s not just from year one to year two, it’s a whole-life thing.

“I’m nowhere near where I need to be and I’m never going to be where I need to be.”

Winston had a good first year with more than 4,000 yards passing. He sounds unimpressed, however.

“I think that you always have to have that rookie mentality,” Winston said. “Because like I said, you never have arrived, and I know Coach Koetter is going to pull that out of us every single time. Coach (Mike) Bajakian, his main message is focus. I have to stay focused, I can’t think about ‘What was it like being a rookie last year?’ I have to think, like, ‘What is it going to be like facing the Philadelphia Eagles in our first preseason game? How can we win that game? What do I need to do for us to win that game?’”

 Winston said he now weighs 231.

“I dropped some weight, but the main thing is gaining muscle, and by me actually working,” Winston said. “I said, I think last year, this was really my first offseason, typically I just go straight into baseball. And with the combine and stuff, doing my (6:15) last year, I was trying to rest and trying to get the offense down pat. But now I just have some time to have some fun and do what I do best, and that’s work.”

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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