Jameis Winston's career-opening streak of 40 consecutive games started will end next Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the New York Jets at Raymond James Stadium. The shoulder injury that kept Winston from playing the second half in New Orleans in Week Nine will also keep him sidelined for "at least two weeks," as Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter revealed on Monday.
Winston and Koetter got that report from the Bucs' medical staff on Monday after Winston had undergone an MRI examination on his shoulder.
"They feel like he needs to rest for a couple of weeks and that's what is going to happen," said Koetter, who indicated that the team did not currently have plans to put Winston on injured reserve. "They're saying this is not structural, but they want to shut him down."
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started 27 games for Jets in 2015-16, will step in as the Buccaneers' starting quarterback. Tampa Bay will also activate third-year passer Ryan Griffin from injured reserve this week, giving them two healthy quarterbacks during Winston's absence.
Fitzpatrick and Griffin had been battling for the primary backup spot to Winston in training camp before Griffin suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason that led to him being placed on injured reserve. Fitzpatrick got the job and will keep it on Sunday after completing 30 of 48 passes for 358 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in his two relief appearances.
"Right now, we are going to be going with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin will be the number two," Koetter stated.
The last Buccaneers regular-season game started by any quarterback other than Winston was the 2014 season finale. Josh McCown was under center for that contest, which Tampa Bay lost to New Orleans to finish the season at 2-14. That record put the Buccaneers at the top of the 2015 draft, and they used the first pick to select Winston. Coincidentally, McCown is now the starting quarterback for the Jets and will face off against Fitzpatrick on Sunday.
Winston first injured his right (throwing) shoulder in Week Six at Arizona, missing roughly three quarters of play. He was able to play in Week Seven at Buffalo and Week Eight at home against Carolina despite only throwing in practice on the Fridays of those respective weeks. Winston had a strong performance in a narrow loss to the Bills but struggled over the next six quarters against the Panthers and Saints. He threw in all three practices this last week but hurt his shoulder again on a sack by Cameron Jordan and Alex Okafor just before halftime in New Orleans.
"Jameis didn't play his best, but on that third-to-last play in the half when he got hit on his left side and the weight of the defensive end and Jameis' weight fell on his right shoulder – that's when he reaggravated it," said Koetter. "That was a hit that most quarterbacks in the NFL are going to come up [hurt] with. When you see those, those are not good. Up until that point, I mean, Jameis had practiced good last week. He had one of his best practices on Friday. [He] threw the ball great in pre-game warmups, but after that point he was definitely hurting."
Koetter conceded that Winston's ailing shoulder could have contributed to the recent downturn in the quarterback's production, but noted again that it would be hard to quantify how much. Winston surpassed 300 yards passing in each of his four full games before the loss to Carolina but had just 277 yards and no touchdowns in the six quarters since.
"Yeah, I mean you could definitely draw that conclusion," said Koetter. "The problem with that is there is no way to measure it. There's no measurement for that. Because Jameis played so well in the second half of Buffalo – the first time we came up a week where he didn't practice until Friday – you think that could be duplicated, as long as he is medically cleared and of course his safety is first. I talked with Jameis about that earlier today that we have been on this losing streak since Jameis was injured somewhere in there, but there is no way to put a measurement on that."