The Tampa Bay Buccaneers considered letting Jameis Winston test out his injured right shoulder on Thursday but ultimately decided to limit him to handoffs and mental reps for a second straight day. However, Winston will throw on Friday, two days before the Buccaneers take on the Bills in Buffalo.
"Jameis did not throw today," said Head Coach Dirk Koetter. "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."
Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick took the first-team snaps again on Thursday and he could be the choice on Sunday in Buffalo, where he was the Bills' starter for most of four seasons from 2009-12. However, if things go well for Winston on Friday he might be able to keep his career-opening streak of 37 straight starts alive. He certainly wants that to be the final outcome, though he will ultimately heed the advice of the team's medical staff.
"My thought process is to play – that's my thought process," said Winston on Thursday before practice. "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."
Those "mental reps" – mimicking the movements of the quarterback in the play, learning the specifics of the game plan, going through the reads on passing plays – are valuable and Winston has stayed fully plugged in to practice the past two days. Still, it's a different routine for him, and a full does of live reps, as is currently the plan for Friday, would help even more.
"I would think [with] any player it's a matter of getting the reps," said Monken. "I thought he did a great job yesterday mentally being right behind Fitz and taking the drops and the mental reads. We will just have to wait and see. We will see today."
For his part, Fitzpatrick has received more playing time with the first-team offense in the past two days than he had through the first six weeks of the season. Even though he will apparently cede that time back to Winston to finish up the week, he should be fully prepared for a potential start on Sunday. Fitzpatrick threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns in less than three quarters of play in Arizona, and that was without any midweek snaps with the first-team offense.
"I thought he did pretty darn well for a guy that didn't get one rep since we were playing in the preseason," said 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."
Winston said that he felt good on Thursday and that his shoulder is showing improvement every day. He also said that he has played through the pain of an AC joint injury in the past, before coming to the Buccaneers. If he throws without trouble on Friday and is cleared to start, Winston will eagerly take the ball.
"I'm ready," he said. "When they let me go, I'm ready."
Since he didn't throw, Winston was once again listed as "limited" on the Buccaneers' official injury report. He was one of eight Buccaneers who were either limited or held out completely for the second practice of the week.
That list grew by one on Thursday when defensive end Robert Ayers was added to the list with a knee ailment. He was limited along with Winston, linebacker Lavonte David (ankle), defensive end Noah Spence (shoulder) and safeties Keith Tandy (hip) and T.J. Ward (hip).
David has been limited in both days of practice after returning last weekend from a two-game absence. If he can play on Sunday, it appears he will be joined by his running mate of the last two seasons, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander. Alexander hasn't played since the opener against Chicago in Week Two but he has been a full-time participant in both practices so far this week.
Safety Josh Robinson, however, might remain in the league's concussion protocal for another week. Robinson started out the week by participating fully in Wednesday's practice but he was held out on Thursday. That's a similar pattern to what he followed last week and he was not cleared to play last Sunday in Arizona.