TAMPA, Fla. - This weekend will be Jameis Winston’s first start against his old Buccaneers, but it won’t be his first action against them.
Winston came off the bench for a gadget play in the playoffs, burning the Bucs for a touchdown. His former teammates still cheer for him, but not when it comes at their expense.
"Jameis is a good guy, still a guy I’m super close with, talk to him all the time," said Cam Brate. "[I] always watch him when I can. [It] definitely will be different. Last year during the playoffs, he went in for the one play and threw a touchdown pass. Obviously, at the time, I was pissed that we gave up a touchdown but secretly I was like, ‘Ah, good for Jameis making a play there.’ But still a guy a lot of guys on the team are close with. Can say nothing but good things about our time with Jameis. I always wish him the best, but not Sunday."
There's one Buc who can't wait for the Sunday reunion with Winston.
"I can’t wait, I can’t wait," smiled Jason Pierre-Paul. "I’m actually going to text him and tell him to get ready. I can’t wait to play Jameis. It’s going to be fun. He’s like a brother to me. I remember we were hiking in the offseason in Colorado, but I can’t wait to hunt him down. It’s crazy, Jameis is a different type of breed."
Winston isn’t looking like the same gunslinger he was back when he wore pewter in red. In fact, he’s 28th in the NFL in passing yards, but 10th in touchdown passes. He also doesn't rack up turnovers. He's tied with Brady, with just three interceptions.
Bruce Arians sees why.
"He's probably throwing it 15 times, less a game," said Arians. "They're playing with a lead, and we didn't have that many leads that [season], so we had to throw it. So, yeah, he's playing very, very well at the position."
This could be a different game plan from New Orleans. The Bucs are preparing for an air attack from Winston, knowing the Saints are going to have to outscore Brady and company.
"It’s been a couple of years, but Jameis, he makes a lot of plays," said Jordan Whitehead. "He has a great arm and throws it deep, so we’ll have chances. He’s playing [well], making the right decisions, making smart reads, running the ball [well]. It’s going to be a good test and I’m excited to get back and play against him."