The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrapped up their 2018 preseason slate on Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars, splitting the quarterbacking duties between Ryan Griffin in the first half and Austin Allen in the second half. Neither Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston dressed for the game.
Next week, Fitzpatrick will return to action as the team's starter against New Orleans in Week One of the regular season. Winston, on the other hand, will be idle as he begins a three-game suspension handed down by the NFL in June.
Actually, Winston doesn't plan to be idle at all, though he will be forbidden from having any contact with Buccaneers personnel during his suspension.
"I'm just going to be working really hard and getting ready for Week Four," said Winston of his approach to the three weeks before he rejoins his teammates. "I'm going to be working my tail off to get back for Week Four. That's really all, man. You can't say anything. It's a tough situation, so I'm just going to be working my tail off to get back with them."
Winston's suspension begins on Saturday, the same day the Buccaneers must cut their roster to 53 active players for the start of the regular season. Winston will be placed on the reserve/suspended by commissioner list and will not count against that 53-man limit. He will be eligible to return to the active roster on Tuesday, September 25, the day after the Bucs' Monday Night Football game against Pittsburgh in Week Three.
Fitzpatrick will take over the offense in Winston's absence and be will backed up by Griffin, who finished the preseason with a 105.3 passer rating, including a fine performance on Thursday against the Jaguars. Winston has been the Bucs' starter for all but three games since he was drafted first overall in 2015, the exception being a stretch last season when he was dealing with a shoulder injury. He's not making any assumptions about his role upon his return but plans to be ready to hit the ground running.
"I'm just going to work my tail off," said Winston. "Who knows how things will go? Hopefully they go great. I know it's going to be a tough situation for our coaches but I just want to get back with my team. That's out of my control. I've just got to get back and work hard and make sure I'm ready for Week Four."
Winston's preparations prior to his suspension went very well. He took snaps with the first, second and third teams during training camp in order to get enough work while the team also prepared Fitzpatrick to start the season. In the preseason, Winston came in second in each of the first three games and excelled on all three occasions. His final preseason numbers included a 73.2% completion rate, a 3-0 touchdown-interception ratio, 9.5 yards per pass attempt and a passer rating of 126.9.
"It's a situation that was handed down and he's done what we've asked him to do and his play on the field, the most important thing of all, has been excellent," said Head Coach Dirk Koetter after Thursday's game.