TAMPA, Fla. -- For Thursday night's game against the New England Patriots, with a week's worth of planning crammed into three days, everything for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has been carefully mapped out. On Monday, review film and have a walk-through at night; on Tuesday, media availability at 11:25 a.m. and practice at 12:50 p.m; on Wednesday, a morning walk-through.
The one thing he hasn't figured out yet? How to introduce himself to Tom Brady.
"I'm thinking about, 'What am I going to say to him when I see him and meet him?'" Winston said with a smile. "One thing I learned from Kurt Warner was to take advantage of your moments. That’s going to be a great moment to see one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game to line up against you in [Raymond James Stadium]."
When Winston reached the Pro Bowl after his 2015 rookie season, Brady and the Patriots had narrowly lost the AFC Championship Game to the Denver Broncos. Thursday will be Winston's first time meeting Brady and playing against him.
“[It's] really just a blessing for me personally," Winston said. "I don’t like talking about me, but to get a chance to witness greatness in front of us with Tom Brady coming into town, it gets you pumped up. It definitely makes you think about how hard you worked to get to this point."
When Winston was 12 years old, growing up in Bessemer, Alabama, he wrote down in a notebook every trait he'd need to become a successful quarterback: leadership, dedication, desire, mental toughness, character and confidence. Over the years, those boxes have all been checked off, along with two undefeated regular seasons in college, a national championship, a Heisman Trophy and becoming the first overall draft pick.
At a young age he paid close attention to what Peyton Manning and Eli Manning did, along with Drew Brees. But Brady will always be the gold standard for Winston. All of his preparation as a youngster was done with the end goal to not only win, but to dominate like Brady.
"He has won more Super Bowls than each of those guys, so to me, that is the most important part," Winston said. "His ability to protect the football and take advantage of those opportunities when they are given to him is impeccable. Just studying him, just seeing how calm he is [and] how precise he is, is very impressive.
"That is the reason why every offseason, every rep I get during the season, I’m trying to be better and better because I know that he’s still out there playing. He’s still getting better and better. He should be an inspiration. Him and Drew Brees and a couple of the older veterans that are still playing to this day -- they're just inspirations for young guys like myself and the other guys coming into the league to continue to work [and] continue to get better."
You can see it on Winston's Instagram account. Two days before minicamp, he posted a photo of himself with the caption, "I'm thinking of a master plan...Gotta win some rings to look like Brady's hand."
But that takes time. That's why whenever there appears to be some impatience with Winston's progression, coach Dirk Koetter often points to Brady, who won his first Super Bowl ring about one month after Winston's sixth birthday.
"Of course, Jameis would love to accomplish the things Tom Brady has accomplished," Koetter said. "If Jameis can play those extra 17 years that Tom Brady has played, then I think he’s got a chance to get some of them.”
Koetter has heard excuses like how Winston did not have enough playmakers last season due to injuries but quipped, "Tom Brady's been doing that for years and they're talking about him winning his 100th MVP."
Winston already has a fan in the coach who sees and works with Brady every day -- Bill Belichick, who believes Winston has already earned the title of "franchise quarterback."
"He's pretty much already done it in two years. I mean, what more do you want him to do?" Belichick said. "Top-five offense, 50 touchdown passes, what are you looking for?
"[He's] really impressive. Great arm, does a good job of buying extra time in the pocket. He's athletic, strong, hard to tackle, accurate. [He] does a good job of using all his receivers, his tight ends, obviously the receivers and checkdowns to the backs. Really impressed with his vision, his toughness, arm strength and accuracy. He does a good job."
He has a fan in Brady, too, who's been impressed with the way Winston has helped Tampa Bay become a winner.
"He's a great young player," Brady said. "I've watched him since he came in, and he's got them going. They're headed in the right direction. Coach [Belichick] talked this morning about their organization and what they're trying to do. Jameis is right at the head of that. He's a great leader. He has been since he came into the league."
It's one thing to throw touchdown passes, to orchestrate fourth-quarter comebacks and win games. It's another to spearhead a cultural overhaul, to stand up in front of a locker room and read a heartfelt letter to teammates, to look backup safety Keith Tandy in the eyes and tell him, "Today is your day, go get your blessing," and then he goes out and not only gets the game-winning interception, but performs so well that he wins the starting job for the next season.
After doing all that in less than three years, a simple handshake with Brady should be a piece of cake. And Winston won't need an introduction.