Jameis Winston answers character questions as leader of Tampa Bay Bucs

Jameis Winston continues his NFL journey under constant scrutiny.

A rape allegation from his college days at Florida State dangles on his résumé, a damning Scarlet Letter of shame in some people’s eyes. But those judgmental eyes are only part of the audience handing out reviews.

Winston plays to a much more adoring crowd these days. They are not necessarily blinded by allegiances to Florida State, the Tampa Bay Bucs or Winston’s hometown of Hueytown, Ala.

They simply see Winston for the man he is becoming: Respectful, modest and embracing his role as a leader in the locker room, field and community.

Of course this is a developing story. It always is. But as he enters his second year as a professional football player, Winston has answered most of those nagging questions about character and crab-legs controversy.

His rookie season came and went without a peep of nonsense. Since then he has offered to take a pay cut so the Bucs could draft his former FSU teammate, Jalen Ramsey (even though the contract can’t be renegotiated). Winston vows to be more diligent on staying in shape after a pudgy start to his rookie season. And he was spotted at the University of South Florida spring game on Saturday wearing a dark-green Bulls shirt in support of his good friend, Bulls defensive end LaDarrius Jackson.

Before any skeptic starts the eye roll — what’s the big deal? — well, it kinda is. Winston began his career with a lot of ambient noise. Screams for the Bucs to ignore him and take Marcus Mariota. Pleas from journalists to skip the potential headaches. Crab-leg jokes cluttering cyberspace, as well as Winston’s misogynistic turn in a video meme that went viral his final season at FSU.

Winston has since shut down most of the noise. For comparison’s sake, check out recent headlines involving another college kid and NFL prospect labeled a problem child — Johnny Manziel.

No one is suggesting we nominate Winston for the Nobel Peace Prize. But it’s within reason to suggest Winston has been diligently taking notes, working on becoming a better person.

Huge bonus: He is becoming a better quarterback.

“Jameis is very perceptive about not only what he needs to get better, but what our offense and what our team needs to get better,” new Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter told reporters recently. “That’s one of the things as when you’re around him more, he’s mature way beyond his years on that sort of thing. The reason I’ve got a smile is that that’s a good thing for the Bucs.”

A very good thing. The Bucs couldn’t whiff on Winston. They had the No. 1 pick in the draft last season after another year of irrelevance. The Bucs struggled again in 2015, finishing 6-10. Since then, Lovie Smith was fired and Koetter was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach.

But there’s still measurable progress — for both the team and the rookie who has easily assimilated into a team leader.

“Me and the chaplain, Doug [Gilcrease], we were just talking Biblically about what leadership means, and leadership means to serve others,” Winston told reporters. “As long as I can serve the guys around me, I feel like I’m doing a good job of being a leader to them and I know that they’re going to want to do anything for me just like I would for them.”

Yes, it sounds like a lot of rah-rah hokey pokey. But if you stay around and listen long enough, this is what Winston is all about: an echo chamber of good vibrations. You may want to tune him out. That is your prerogative. But Jameis Winston continues to make noise.

For all the right reasons, instead of all the wrong ones.

Source: MSN Sports, Orlando Sentinel

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