See photos from Jameis Winston's Draft Party in Alabama. (AP Images)
TAKEAWAYS FROM SMITH, LICHT PRESSERSGENERAL MANAGER JASON LICHT
"I've heard that there's a lot of people over there at the stadium (at the Buccaneers Official Draft Party, Presented by Miller Lite). Heard that's a pretty good crowd, they're pretty excited – I wish I was over there. I really wish I was over there right now. Got some work yet possibly to do tonight, but we – man. this is a big thrill for all of us here in the building. We're so excited to get a guy like Jameis to be our future – start a new era. Any time you get an opportunity to get a franchise quarterback, that we believe and are very confident is a franchise quarterback, it excites you and excitement is a word – trying to think, I can't even think of a word right now. I'm beyond excited, as well as the entire room up there. He's a champion, he's a leader, he's a winner, he's got tremendous football character and tremendous intelligence and work ethic. His work ethic was one thing that really, really put him over the top for us. Combined with his leadership and just his – you know I hate to say it, lack of a better word, 'it factor,' as well as his ability on the field, which caught our eyes early on in the process, going back over a year, to his first year there at Florida State, playing."
(On Jameis Winston's character)
"If he wasn't a good guy, we wouldn't have used the first pick on him. When we're doing the exhaustive process that we went through, that I've talked about, Lovie's talked about, ownership has talked about it – how they were comfortable with it. Not only were we comfortable with him and his character, we're confident in his character. We think that his character that he brings to the locker room and in the building is a strength. That's one of the things that makes him a great player."
(On the civil lawsuit facing Winston)**
"Obviously that's been in the paper. We anticipated a lot of things, there hasn't been anything that's surprised us. One thing that we're confident in is that that won't be a distraction for Jameis. He's played through a lot of distractions."
(On when the team decided on drafting Winston)
"That's a good question. As a football player, a long time ago. You have to let the process play out with all players. You have to make sure that all players that you're selecting, you check all the boxes with them. We checked a lot of boxes with Jameis. It's been quite some time – I don't want to put a date-stamp on it, but it's been quite some time. We wanted to make sure that everybody in the building was on board, including coaches (and) scouts, who all did a tremendous job. (Director of Player Personnel) Jon Robinson led a charge that was one that I'll remember forever. In terms of just the background work we did – not just on Jameis, but on all the quarterbacks. We all came together on this as a consensus."
(On the questions about Winston's maturity and if he needs to be mentored)
"We have a great locker room. We have one of the best locker rooms I've been a part of. Gerald McCoy, Vincent Jackson, Lavonte David, I can go on and on, I know I'm missing somebody here, but we have a great locker room. Jameis is his own man and Jameis is going to heed the advice of a lot of veterans, I'm sure of it. I've had discussions with him about that and Jameis is going to be his own man. He has to find his own way, just like all of our players. Anybody that leaves college and enters the workforce, man or woman, these young men become men the minute they're drafted, all of draft picks. I'm sure he's going to take advantage of our great locker room and we're going to rely on our locker room to help out all of our draft picks."
(On if Winston has the ability to play as a rookie)
"I'll let Lovie talk more about that when he's here, but usually (when) you take the No. 1 pick, there's some thought that he could play immediately."
(On the trade market for the No. 1 pick)
"We had interest (from other teams), up until the last minute, or last few minutes. We were never tempted. We wanted to take (Winston) the whole time. You can never not take a phone call, it's just kind of interesting to hear what some of the offers were. But like we said before, we didn't want to close the door on it, but we wanted to take him, that was our plan. It would have – I don't even want to put a price tag on it. He's a franchise quarterback that we are thrilled to have, so really (I'll) leave it at that."
(On his message to fans that are skeptical of Winston)**
"I appreciate that question. He won us over. He won a lot of people over in this building and around the league. There's an article I saw that Derrick Brooks had a comment about time – you just have to give it some time and he was afforded some time to prove some people when he came into the league. Obviously Derrick is held in high regard here. And that's just it, we can't fast-forward time, but (we) just have to give time and let him prove to everybody – which I'm sure he will."
(On the organization's support for victims of domestic violence)
"We have been (involved) here, in the past, (including) last year. We continue to educate our employees and all of our players on domestic violence. We feel confident in Jameis and we feel like Jameis – if we didn't think he is a great person, we wouldn't have drafted him."
(On Winston's leadership)
"He raises the bar of all the players around him. Guys start talking football with him and they just want to run out on the sandlot and start having a seven-on-seven practice. Every player that we talked to said that he's the best leader that they've ever played with and that speaks volumes."
(On if the team informed Winston that he was the No. 1 pick prior to drafting him)
"We never told him that officially, 'You're going to be a Buc.' The second I called him and told him that we're going to make him a Buc, I couldn't hear much else. It was a lot of yelling and screaming and hugging. He had his whole family there and that's a very tight-knit group. That was part of the process of getting to know them. He's got a great mom and dad, a little brother, sister, girlfriend, his grandmother Myrtle. I met Uncle Harry – I met the whole family and they are truly an outstanding group. That's one of the reasons that we felt very comfortable with him. They're all there celebrating with him tonight and they deserve to have a celebration. They've stood behind Jameis through a lot of things and they're a big reason why he's successful."
(On the expectations facing Winston)
"There are big expectations. It's one of the things with Jameis that set him apart as well. He can play in some pressure now. He plays best in the clutch. You can see that on film, you can see that watching games. The more pressure, the better he plays. That is probably a microcosm of him, in terms of just how he's going to deal with pressure here. He knows he's going to be under a lot pressure. The players are excited about it, the coaches are excited about it, this whole building (is excited). Everybody in the building has played a part in this and we're all very excited."
(On his future being tied with Winston's and if that concerned him)
"Not at all. It's not often a general manager gets a chance to draft who he and the coach think is a franchise quarterback. I'm sure it's similar for Lovie – and you'll get a chance to talk to him now too – but somebody asked me if it was like Christmas and I said 'No, it's more like your wedding day.' Without the cold feet – I never had cold feet on my wedding day. That's what it's like: the buildup, you know it's coming, it's finally here, and I'm trying to avoid having a Dick Vermeil moment right now. The process that we went through, there was just a lot of work. Not just for Jameis, but for this entire draft. Which I've said could be the biggest draft in the history of this franchise and Jameis has a lot to do with that. We're beyond excited."
(On if there was one person that impacted the team's decision to draft Winston)
"We've said all along we're not going to get into the specifics of who we talked to and what they said, but there are quite a few of those. And people that came out of nowhere to give unsolicited opinions that we didn't even seek out. (People) that weren't necessarily real close with him, that were outsiders, so it was really a fun interesting process that leads us to today."
HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"Exciting day. Exciting night, I should say around here. We started the process along time ago, after the football season. Knowing you had the first pick, had a lot of ground to cover. We and I had opinions early on in the process, but we wanted to go through the process. Every step along the way, Jameis Winston stood out. I feel like I know him from going to Bessemer to hang out with the family to spending a lot of time with him to letting him know what the expectations would be if we selected him and to just seeing how he would fit in to our locker room with our football team. All of the boxes checked out. I'm excited. We're excited to have him be a part of our football team. He's a good football player, a very good person. I know there have been a lot of things said about him. He's made some mistakes that young people make from time to time when they are young. I definitely don't think I've seen a pattern (once you get a chance) to know him. I just really believe in him. I trust my instincts on people to know who we are getting and of course we wanted to get another good football player, but another good guy, too, to come in our locker room. We have an excellent locker room. We talked about that. We feel we are close as a football team even though our record didn't show that this past year. But again, we have a good football player, can't wait for him to get here and I'll take your questions."
(On if there was a convincing moment in the process when he knew Jameis Winston was the pick)
"I told myself and we told ourselves, I should say, that we are going to go through the process. There were a lot of steps along the way. Of course first time meeting him at the combine, I had watched a lot. You know I'm a college football fan. I'm a football fan in general, so I have watched him on TV. But to get a chance to meet him for the first time I was impressed. Seemed like every step along the way, it came up, you know, the same thing. We didn't actually tell him until we called him, but I think along the way he got a sense that this could work and could see how we felt about him. I enjoyed the process of looking at a lot of different players. When you go through the process and you compare, I said early on, I don't think there are really tough decisions at the end, when you did your homework and I think we did that."
(On Winston's intangibles and how they weigh into the decision)
"We saw it. I know this past year, of course, a lot of close games. You saw him in tough, pressured situation and when you get a chance to talk with him, he kind of relishes that role. He has a lot of confidence in himself and what he can do in his role on the football team. Again, every time you talk to him you see that a little bit."
(On what he would say to a fan who has doubts about Winston)**
"I think, and that's a fair question and I was in the same situation. I didn't know him. If you just go on what you read you can just go down. I would just ask our fans to give him a chance. We've done a lot of research and we want what's best for our football team, but a certain type of guy that we're going to bring in to our organization and I would just say, to our fans, again to just give him a chance. Don't have any preconceived opinions about him and just let him show us who he is as a man and as a football player, which we are going to ask about all our draft picks."
(On if he is confident Winston will stay on the 'straight and narrow')
"I'm pretty confident. We wouldn't have made the selection if we didn't feel very good about that. When you ask for nothing in life, there are no guarantees in life or any of this, but I feel very comfortable and I have had that comfort from the first time I talk really. I think if you go back and look at my comments all along the way it was just confirmed every time I had a chance to talk with him. Which was quite a few times."
(On if outside opinions about what should be done with the No. 1 pick ever made him waver in his decision)
"No. On third-and-short I'm not calling for outside help. We paid attention to what was being said and what we saw on the inside. We have a great scouting department that did a great job of a lot of research on a lot of our players and then our coaches. We trust what we saw on video and that's who we went with. It's exciting when everybody has an opinion and everybody is an expert, but, again, we went with what we thought on the inside of our building and we feel very good about it."
(On if Tampa Bay seriously considered any trade offers for the No. 1 pick)**
"No. When you have the first pick, there are a lot of calls coming back and forth. When you are in the role - we plan on being in that role one time, this year - you have to take advantage of it. Our guy was there that we wanted, so why would you listen to any of those things? In the end, no. We were going to select Jameis Winston and we feel good about it."
(On Winston's experience in a pro-style offense and how that matches with offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter)
"First off, him playing in a pro-style system helped. We saw him in, you look at Jimbo (Fisher) did a great job with him at Florida State and we saw him in the same situations you'll see him in the NFL. That was just a part of it. Of course, Dirk Koetter having a big say in what we are going to do. His evaluation meant an awful lot. Again, we have to few chances to see him actually work out. We had a chance to actually work him out ourselves. Again, every step along the way it just checked out. In the end, it wasn't that hard of a decision based on all the things we are going to ask our quarterback to do."
(On where Winston will be on the depth chart)
"So you would like for me Roy, to tell you before I talk to him and talk to our team, everybody just finding out, you would like me to do that. Well I'll just say this here. We have a little bit of time before we have to make that official. I'm just excited about, number one, our rookie mini-camp, getting our rookies here. Right now, we had two weeks of offseason program, but we haven't actually had a chance to go out on the football field as coaches with our veterans. We'll start looking at guys and then, when we are supposed to put that depth chart out, right now we just have a group and are trying to add to our football team. Right now, we added one very good football player that plays the quarterback position to our team."
(On bringing in a veteran to help mentor Winston)
"Yes, Jenna. I've heard an awful lot about mentors and different people we are going to bring in to help out. No we are not bringing anyone in. We don't really need any mentors or anything like that. We have some people that really care about our organization that will be around our organization and for our veterans, any player coming in, there is a role the veterans play in our locker room, but we wouldn't bring anyone in that needs to be babysat or anything like that. That's not the case with Jameis. As I said before, we do have a great locker room. And I know they are excited about giving advice to any player coming in to help us win football games."
(On if Winston ever expressed how much he wanted to play for him)
Yes he did, almost from the start. He played in the state of Florida. There is a big group of Florida State fans that watched him play throughout. He loves it down here and knows a ton of our football players. To me, why wouldn't you want to play here? So, yes, he made that known early on. He wanted to. He knew what he was getting himself into and his dream has come true."
(On where Winston needs to improve)
"With all rookies, again, excited to get him on the practice for our rookie mini-camp, but he is a rookie. So start from the basics and then we'll see exactly what he needs, but you get better with experience. Just think about anything you have done for the first time. Anytime you come to a place for the first time; there is a lot to learn. You can't just say one thing. There's a lot of things, but you just start the process. I'll just say though, I think some guys can come in with a little bit more knowledge than maybe others and that's what we feel like we are getting with him."
(On how important Winston's relationship with Derrick Brooks was to Smith's opinion)
"It's very important for him to have a relationship, not only with Derrick. There's a lot of former Buccaneers around here that he already has a relationship with. Of course Derrick is a big part of that, but there are quite a few. All former Buccaneers we would like to have an influence, not just on Jameis, but on all our young players coming in. Again, that will definitely be the case. Just Derrick in particular though, he's a Hall of Famer for us. He loves the Buccaneers and anything he can do to help, of course he is going to do that. I was a t a function of Derrick's on Sunday and there were a lot of former Seminoles there. They let me know then what decision they thought we should make also. Glad we are keeping them happy."
(On what jumps out on Winston's tape)
"That's hard. Just what can't he do? Run the 40 (yard dash). Besides that, Jameis will tell you, he said 'Coach once I start working out and not playing baseball in the offseason, I can get it down a little bit. I think it's been documented. In the end what do you want your quarterbacks to be able to do? Throw the football in the pocket and he can do that. That's a good starting spot."
(On Winston never being a full-time football player and if his ceiling is actually higher)
"Yeah that's a good point. I know it's been said, he's pro ready and I heard all those things, but he hasn't had an offseason of football. I talked to his father, Ant, early on. That's what he talked about on how his son never been in an offseason program as a football player. And how he thought from what he's seen his son do coming up, he's not a developed athlete yet. I know Dave Kennedy, our strength coach, is excited about getting him here. We are going to see if we can get him to get a six-pack, since you all talk about that so much."
(On if he is done for the night or still working)
"From what I hear from the news we are trying to get back in so [laughter]. No, seriously, we want to keep all our options open. We have a long time to think about things. There are a lot of player we like coming up that are still available. We had a plan. The plan is in place right now, but who knows. We'll see."
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