TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrapped up their three-day mandatory minicamp a little early Thursday, and one player wasn't too happy about it -- quarterback Jameis Winston. Coach Dirk Koetter said that if place-kickers Nick Folk and Roberto Aguayo each made four in a row -- which they did -- the Bucs could call it a day.
Teammates celebrated and everyone retreated to an ice cream truck adjacent to the practice field. Winston eventually did too (he got watermelon-and-green apple-shaved ice) amid a swarm of fans wanting his autograph. But the former first overall draft pick wanted to get more work in.
"Jameis [was] the one guy in the huddle who wanted to keep going," Koetter said, emphasizing that the difference between Winston in 2015 and now is that he knows he can play in this league.
"He knows he can be a successful player," Koetter said. "Jameis -- no one has higher expectations for his performance than he does. I mean, he's aiming to be elite, not just one of 32. And because he has such high expectations, and we have high expectations, it's a never-ending process. We're hard on Jameis and he's hard on himself. Always improving, but not where it needs to be."
Winston led Florida State to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and a national championship, and he won a Heisman Trophy. He also heard his name called first in the 2015 NFL draft. He wasn't short on confidence heading into the league. But he still had to prove himself.
"When you come into the league as a rookie, you had great success in college but you're playing with grown men now," Koetter said. "There's just a lot more thrown at you. The disguise is so much different, the way the defense looks. He's been through 32 NFL starts. Experience is the best teacher. We've talked about this before. The Tom Bradys and Matt Ryans of the world have got a lot of reps on Jameis."
The focus up until this point has been protecting the football, and it always will be for Winston. He threw 28 interceptions in two seasons in college and 33 in his first two seasons in the NFL, tied for third-most in the league. He had 16 fumbles and lost eight during that span.
He also led the Bucs to a 9-7 record last year, their first winning season since 2010, and narrowly missed the playoffs. That has raised the expectations and upped the ante. The footwork is becoming more refined, the ball is getting out quicker, and the delivery is becoming tighter. He's throwing a more catchable ball. And he's continuing to raise the bar for his teammates.
"He’s always been a leader, but the way he’s leading, he’s taken it up a notch," said left tackle Donovan Smith. "He is the hardest-working guy I know. Anytime you get here at 5:45 in the morning, he’s already here. It’s like you can’t beat him to the building. The work he puts in is just tremendous, and it only benefits us at the end of the day.”
The Bucs signed DeSean Jackson, one of the top wideouts in free agency and one of the fastest players in the league, to pair with big-bodied Pro Bowler Mike Evans. The Bucs also drafted tight end O.J. Howard, with whom Winston spent a lot of time in minicamp working on back-shoulder fades. The club also drafted wide receiver Chris Godwin, who has been one of the most consistent performers this offseason and who really competes for the ball.
The goal isn't to merely compete or to avoid making mistakes -- not with those types of weapons and Winston's sheer knack for making plays, or the fact that the Bucs have beaten the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons three of the past four times they've squared off.
“The goal is to win Super Bowls here," Winston said. "If that’s not the goal for everyone in the building, you don’t really need to be here.”