There's more riding on Jameis Winston's shoulder than ever
Rick Stroud , Tampa Bay Times, published 30 October 2017

Just wind, baby. That was one explanation for so many of Jameis' Winston's passes that floated like a butterflies in the breeze Sunday. Seventeen of them did not land in his receivers' hands. Two of them were intercepted.

Was the north wind, gusting to 25 miles per hour, really the biggest reason for Winston and the Bucs' poor performance in Sunday's 17-3 loss to Carolina, one that felt like the end of something after losing their fourth straight to fall to 2-5? "No," Winston said. "We are NFL quarterbacks. We've got to be able to throw in the wind."

So maybe it was Winston's shoulder. You know, he has that sprain in the AC joint of his right (throwing) shoulder. Even though he played a terrific second half in a loss at Buffalo a week ago, there is some palace intrigue surrounding the arm of the Bucs quarterback.

On Thursday, Koetter told local reporters Winston had suffered no setback against the Bills, even though for the second straight week, he was shut down by the medical staff and told not to throw a football until Friday.

But on Friday night, during his weekly spot on SiriusXM radio, Koetter said an injury took place when Winston was sacked and lost a fumble at Buffalo. "He kind of re-injured it," Koetter said. "That's what led to him not throwing again Wednesday and Thursday this week."

After the game, Koetter tried to clear up the confusion. "He didn't have another injury," Koetter insisted. "On the sack fumble in the Buffalo game, Jameis fell on that shoulder. It's a bruise. It's a bruise-type thing so it was sore. It wasn't a setback, it was very similar to the way it was before. "I wasn't trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes. In my mind, I'm saying the same thing. It's the same injury."

Whatever the problem, Winston is leading an offense with Koetter calling the plays that isn't scoring points in the first half. Before halftime, they were shut out in Arizona, had six points at Buffalo and put up a goose egg Sunday against Carolina.

Winston is never going to be confused with a dart thrower in quarterback terms, but on Sunday, he completed just over 55 percent of his pass attempts (21-of-38), did not go over 100 yards passing until late in the third quarter and finished with 210 yards, no touchdowns, a fumble lost and two interceptions.

In fact, it was the first time in Winston's 39 starts that the Bucs failed to score a touchdown. And in all but one of those games, Winston had accounted for a score. Winston's 49.2 passer rating was his worst since the fourth game of 2016.

"As far as completing the football, I didn't do a good job with that," Winston said. "We were off a little bit. But anytime I'm not completing a certain amount of my passes, I'm not going to be happy with my performance. I don't think I had a good performance today at all."

There were some drops, to be sure. There always are. But mostly, the Bucs hurt themselves with penalties. Three times they had plays that took them inside the Carolina 35, only to have penalties knock them backward and out of scoring range. Winston was under pressure and trying to pitch the football forward to running back Doug Martin when he was stripped and lost the ball.

"Sometimes, in times like this, the ball isn't going to bounce your way," Winston said. "You're not going to see me pout. It's time for us to step up and rise to the occasion ... Are our backs against the wall? Yeah. Did I play good? No. Am I going to come out next week ready to play? Yes."

Now the biggest question of all: should Winston continue playing? He can't throw during the most important practices during the week. And Koetter revealed Sunday that Winston took yet another shot on his shoulder against Carolina and nearly came out of the game.

"I think the wind was the main factor in the passing game," Koetter said. "Jameis did take a shot early in the fourth quarter and he was hurting a little bit after that. I thought he might have to come out. But he stayed in. It was on the first play of the drive. He stayed in and we kept going and the game flow went and I haven't talked to him since on that."

Don't be surprised if there is discussion this week about shutting Winston down. The Bucs don't want another situation like the Colts have with Andrew Luck, who may miss an entire season following off-season shoulder surgery.

Realistically, the Bucs aren't winning the NFC South. Also, losing your franchise QB is a good excuse to get a mulligan and look toward 2018. "Again that will be a medical decision, and Jameis' health will be priority No. 1," Koetter said.

Right now, the Bucs need to get their second wind.