The Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback job could be veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick’s to lose.
FILE PHOTO: Aug 30, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) warms up on the field prior to a game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
With Jameis Winston suspended the first three games of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, general manager Jason Licht wouldn’t commit to Winston starting in Week 4.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say right now that he’s going to be the guy,” Licht said while speaking on the Bucs’ broadcast on Thursday night on WFLA TV.
Fitzpatrick, who turns 36 in November, won two of three starts filling in for an injured Winston in 2017. He is expected to lead the team against division rival New Orleans in Week 1, followed by games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
The starter in Game 4 — a road game against the Bears at Soldier Field — is anyone’s guess.
When training camp started, coach Dirk Koetter also wouldn’t declare Winston the Week 4 starter. Winston started camp working with the third-string unit, then got reps with the first- and second-team units.
He wound up having a strong preseason, completing 73 percent of his passes (30-of-41) for 388 yards and three touchdowns.
Licht said the team’s start will be among the factors that could help the team choose a quarterback.
“ Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin, whoever it is, is playing lights out, I don’t think it’s fair right now just to say, ‘Yes, automatically, is going to be the guy,’” Licht said. “Now, he may be. Dirk and I — Dirk in particular — he’s got some time to think about that.”
Koetter liked what he saw in the preseason from Winston.
“I think performance-wise, you’d have to give Jameis an A for the preseason,” Koetter said after Winston’s final preseason performance in Week 3. “I don’t think anybody in their right mind would say that wasn’t an A performance on his part. I think he handled it well. I think he performed very well, and I think he did a really good job of working on things he needed to work on.”
Fitzpatrick was 17-of-28 passing for 183 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Buccaneers drafted Winston with the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. Fitzpatrick, a Harvard product, was a seventh-round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Rams. Entering his 14th season, he also has played for the Bills, Bengals, Jets, Texans and Titans.
—Field Level Media