Quarterback Jameis Winston is wasting no time getting himself ready for the Bucs' 2018 season. After battling injuries for much of the year, it goes without saying his body could use the rest. Mentally, however, his preparation will begin almost immediately.
"I'm happy it's a new year," Winston said on Monday. "I'm happy we can bring in this year with a win […] everyone has their goals and stuff for the new year but my goal right now is to sit down this week and get my mind mentally ready for not being in this situation next year."
Winston is happy to have closed out the 2017 regular season with a victory over arguably the best team in arguably the best division in football. However, the overall disappointment of the Bucs' 5-11 record is lingering and is now being processed into fuel to avoid a repeat next season.
"It's really fueling me because I didn't want to be here in this spot," Winston said. "I was so confident at the beginning of the year. A lot of us coming in, the hype was real, you know? It really fuels me because it lets us know that ok, just because the hype was there that doesn't mean anything. We have to go and play on the field. I said that a lot in the beginning like 'yo, we still have to go out there and play' but that's just a true testament that no matter what someone can say about you, even if someone can bring you down, you still have to go out there and play and prove you're putting [in the effort] every single play, not just in the offseason or not just for Hard Knocks and not just for the end of the season. It's every single play you have to prove your stuff."
It's not just the players that have something to prove. The coaches do, too. They will be right back to work this week and anxiously looking forward to when they can start the improvement process.
"I hate being away from the players," Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken said in his press conference last week talking about going into the offseason. "Everything [I] do in coaching, I take responsibility for. Everybody thinks well, 'Hey, this guy did this or we did this.' That is not someone else's problem. That is my problem. That is our problem. That as much as anything is how am I going to fix it? How are we going to get better if I'm not around them]? […] How am I going to fix it if I can't be around those guys and be around what we do day to day to fix it? If we don't, we don't. But, it's hard when you don't have those opportunities around your players. That is the fun you get in coaching. That is the fun someone gets in teaching. That is what you get out of mentoring [and] what you do when you impact people's lives, when you see a change and them develop as not only people, but as players."
As far as what the players can do to develop further and improve next season, Winston says confidence is key.
"We have to be confident, we have to be ready to play," Winston said. "I think execution-wise we just have to be mentally ready to be about that action and we will. I'm just happy in the way we finished because that creates confidence. That creates more confidence for these guys to see that we beat one of the best teams in this division. You look at our division and we have the toughest division in football so that in its own should push these guys around here to [be like] 'hey, let's go get it'. We have three MVP-winning quarterbacks. Ok look, I want to be one of those MVP-winning quarterbacks. I want to be one of those teams to go to the Super Bowl and I think we are capable of doing that, so a lot of these guys will be driven to do that."
There's a lot there in Winston's outlook. He is just 23 years old with three NFL seasons under his belt and has grown into a true leader within the Bucs' locker room. He is a leader that believes in himself and his teammates reaching the highest level. For him, the preparation for achieving that level starting with next season, begins now.