TAMPA (FOX 13) - Growing and moving forward – that was the theme from Jameis Winston as he made his first public comments since being suspended by the NFL.
The Buccaneers quarterback took questions after training camp workouts at the team’s new indoor facility on Thursday.
“I’m just focused on moving forward. That’s all I can do,” he said. “I’ve grown and learned from this situation. So it’s a learning experience you know. I’ve worked hard in this community since I’ve gotten here and I’m going to continue to work hard on and off the field.”
Winston was accused of inappropriately touching a female Uber driver in Arizona back in March of 2016. Investigators with the NFL found he violated the league's personal conduct policy, forcing him to sit out for the first three games of the season.
The quarterback apologized for the incident in a statement released on Facebook, but had not spoken publicly about it since the NFL announced its findings.
Thursday, he thanked Buccaneers ownership and his teammates, many of whom he’d spoken to personally, and repeatedly said he did not want to be a distraction.
He sidestepped reporters’ questions about the Uber incident and his decision to give up alcohol, repeatedly insisting that he’s continuing to grow.
“I’ve made a lot of positive strides since I’ve been here. So I’ve just got to continue to grow as a man, as a person, as a leader, as a father,” he said. “I know I can’t put myself in situations like that.”
On Wednesday, teammates Lavonte David, Mike Evans and Ali Marpet expressed support for the 24-year-old quarterback.
"That's my boy, one of my best friends," wide receiver Evans said. "Obviously I was hurt by (the suspension). We've been going to war together for three years, about to be four years now."
Linebacker Lavonte David said, "We just know that it was a silly mistake back in the day. It was a silly mistake, man. He knows it, we know it. He knows what he's done. He's gonna learn from it because from whenever it happened until now, he's matured a lot."
The Bucs have missed the playoffs 10 consecutive seasons and have not won a postseason game since the 2002 Super Bowl run.
Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who won two games last season while Winston was hurt, will lead the team for the first three games of this season.
“Ryan has been here in this situation before, so I’m blessed to have a quarterback of that caliber taking on the ranks,” Winston offered.
Winston also had a message for frustrated fans.
“I understand the disappointment. I mean, I’m disappointed. I should never have put myself in that situation. But all I can do is grow and learn from that. I would tell the fans they should support this team. Continue to support me. Since I’ve been here, my main goal is to grow as a leader, a huge advocate in the community. I’ve done that and I’m going to continue to do that.”