“Ray Lewis” Effect In The Bucs’ Locker Room

September 9th, 2016


Demar Dotson pulled his car past the gate at One Buc Place well before the break of dawn.

Tampa Bay’s veteran tackle turned off the ignition and began walking toward the entranceway when he noticed another vehicle, already parked.

Then Dotson smiled.

Once he recognized James Winston’s car in the lot, Dotson knew he wasn’t the earliest bird in town.

“I got in about 6:15 and his car’s already out there,” Dotson said, shaking his head. “No telling what Jameis was doing.”

The odds are 1-5 he was watching film of the Falcons.

Like more than a few Buc fans, Dotson harbored concerns about Winston’s focus after a highly successful rookie season.

The first pick in the 2015 draft threw for 4,042 yards, the third-highest total by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. After tossing seven interceptions in the first four games, Winston was picked off only eight more times while taking every snap during a 6-10 season.

Sophomore Surge?

NFL history is littered with quarterbacks who struggled after a dynamic rookie year. Winston’s counterpart on Sunday, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, threw 17 more passes in his sophomore season of 2009, but gained 524 fewer yards than in his first year.

“Going into the offseason, I was wondering how Jameis would handle all that success,” Dotson said. “But going through the OTAs and training camp and seeing the kind of effort he puts in, he looks just as hungry as he was on his first day here. He’s chomping at the bit for that first game to get here.”

The selection of Winston didn’t trigger unanimous raves in Tampa. His off-field issues made him a controversial prospect, but Winston hasn’t appeared to make one false move since arriving amid all that fanfare and the rather large bull’s-eye on his back.

In the span of 16 months, he has won over fans and, most of all, he has won over teammates. Even a veteran like Vincent Jackson, who has played next to his share of fakers and frauds during an accomplished 11-year career, can’t say enough about Winston’s genuine passion.

“This is a quarterback-driven league, there’s no doubt about it,” said Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith. “And I think Jameis is an outstanding quarterback. He’s got some great traits on the field, but he’s also a great leader. And when you have that, I think it puts you a step ahead of the other teams in the league.”

More than a strong arm and a powerful frame, Winston’s most impressive trait is an intangible — his love for the game.

“The way he prepares, just the kind of guy he is,” tight end Brandon Myers said when asked why Winston is special. “If anything, he’s even more driven in Year 2. He demands a lot from guys, but coming in as a young guy, he’s got the command of everybody. He’s one of those players you want to lay it all on the line for. Everybody wants to play for him, and when you’ve got that going, good things are going to happen.”

Winston will be the first to admit it … he’s a football junkie. He can’t get enough and he wants to be great.

For any athlete, that’s a winning exacta.

Ray Lewis Revived

In the months leading up to the 2015 draft, every time I ran into Lovie Smith or Jason Licht, I asked only one burning question: does this kid love football?

Invariably, they would both reply, “If we know anything about Jameis Winston, it’s that he absolutely loves football.”

In the end, that love affair will be Winston’s legacy. He puts the work in, he is devoted and he is getting rewarded.

So is his franchise.

“We know this guy,” Dotson said. “He has leadership qualities about him that remind you of Ray Lewis. Guys feed into it because they know Ray Lewis is genuine. Ray’s going to give you everything he’s got. I used to hear stories about Ray and think about what it would be like to be in the huddle with him — all that energy and that excitement. Guess what? No. 3 has it, too.”


7 Responses to ““Ray Lewis” Effect In The Bucs’ Locker Room”

  1. Patrick in VA Says:

    I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to have to watch the game this Sunday from the house, by myself. I’m so jacked up about seeing the product on the field this year, I feel like every touchdown is going to feel like #55’s pick six and every falcons touchdown is going to feel like I’m watching Manning lead the Colts back on Monday night. I haven’t gotten this stoked about the team in a lot of years. Hopefully they deliver and I don’t have to be talked down off the ledge after the game.

  2. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    PA my friend I assure you you won’t be let down. Sunday will be our opening statement to the entire league.

  3. Miko Says:

    The loving football part may be the most important element in draft decisions today. I don’t think this generation of football players have nearly as much passion as the olden days. To sift through the frauds, fast talkers and bankers is probably more important than ever.

  4. Brian Says:

    How does “i was wondering how Jameis would handle all that success” somehow equal “harbored concerns about Winston’s focus”? Those are NOT the same thing. I love how reporters sensationalize quotes to make them fit some kind of narrative that makes their story seem more important than it really is.

  5. BigStinky Says:

    I hope the extra time pays off, this year could be great!

  6. cometowin2 Says:

    Couldnt be happier with Winston’s progress and the addition of Ira and the Commish to Joebucsfan. Never more excited for a opener. Havent seen a live game in almost 25 years but I will be there for the next two games traveling from Albuquerque. Tickets for the Falcons game are on the 50 yard line, 11 rows up. Right behind the Bucs bench. They will hear me espically when on defense. Thank you Joe’s for getting me through the offseason. Go Bucs!!!

  7. BucfanBF Says:

    I am generally excited for opening day!! Jameis is the leader we desperately needed and he will bring us to the promised land several times before he hangs up his cleats.
    I really feel that we have the makings of a good team both offensively and on defense.
    One more solid draft and astute FA signings should do the trick.