Bucs GM: Jameis Winston is 'best leader I think I've ever been around'

Jameis Winston drew high praise from Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht for his leadership ability. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

The fourth episode of the HBO series "Hard Knocks," which is chronicling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, aired Tuesday night. Here are highlights from the show:

Jameis the leader: Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht is a big fan of Jameis Winston, and it starts with an appreciation for the leadership ability of his franchise quarterback. "If you've got a guy like Jameis, he's the reason we got [receiver] DeSean Jackson, because DeSean turned down more money to come here because he wanted to play with him," Licht told Tampa Bay Lightning assistant GM Julien BriseBois, who was visiting his office.

Asked by BriseBois if he knew that Winston was a strong leader when they drafted him in 2014, Licht said, "Yes. He's the best leader I think I've ever been around -- in anything."

The team's belief in its quarterback also was revealed when a group of Bucs were watching a segment on TV that posed a choice of Winston or Cam Newton for fantasy football. When the Panthers quarterback was picked, the Bucs players booed just as Winston walked by.

"Hey, I look up to Cam," Winston said.

"Doesn't mean you can't be better than him," said a teammate.

"It's OK," Winston said. "And he's been to a Super Bowl."

Winston might be the franchise quarterback, but he's the second-best basketball player at home. His girlfriend, Breion Allen, nicknamed by Winston's uncle "The Sniper" because she never misses, hit just about everything she put up during a pop-a-shot game with the Bucs quarterback.

Allen, a former Rice basketball player, and Winston recounted their first conversation when the two met in high school at a basketball game.

"She was sitting in the stands, and I came up to her and I was like, 'You pretty,'" Winston said.

Allen broke in: "That's not what he said."

"So I asked about the scar on her head. I said, 'How did you get that scar on your head?'" Winston said. "And then she's like, 'I got into a bike accident.' I was like, 'So, you don't know how to ride a bike?'"

"I said, 'I don't ride a bike,'" Allen said. "He couldn't get over that."

Mature rookie receiver: Third-round pick Chris Godwin impressed Licht way before he got on the field for the Bucs in training camp.

"He's almost like a 30-year-old right now," Licht told TV analyst Brian Baldinger during a practice. "Before we signed him to a contract, he already was down here, had an apartment, was all set up -- all on his own.

"We were like, 'You know, you can stay in the hotel for free so you don't need to start paying rent,' and he just said, 'I just wanted to clear my mind.'"

That mature approach combined with production on the field has Bucs camp buzzing about the rookie receiver. With starters Mike Evans and Jackson out, Godwin played 42 snaps on offense, more than any other receiver, against the Cleveland Browns in their third preseason game on Saturday. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said they needed him to play like a No. 1 receiver, and he delivered.

Godwin's preparation for his rookie season has been aided by his relationship with his girlfriend and workout partner, Mariah DelPercio. Cameras showed the self-described "old married couple" lifting weights together. Godwin, who played football in high school for DelPercio's father, can be really shy if he doesn't know you, DelPercio said, and that was evident in the early days when he visit her family's home.

"He came over and he would just sit at the kitchen table with his headphones on, and my mom was like, 'This kid sucks. He doesn't even talk to anyone,'" DelPercio said. "My dad was like, 'No, he's really funny if you get to know him.'"

Bullough's uphill battle: Undrafted rookie linebacker Riley Bullough has been one of the stars of "Hard Knocks" this season, and he has done plenty to impress his coaches. But for as much as he wows them with his intensity, smarts and leadership abilities, there is doubt about his physical limitations.

During a meeting of the coaching staff, linebackers coach Mark Duffner had high praise, tempered with some sobering reality.

"This kid is a highly competitive leader -- guy that really works at everything, knows the defense," Duffner said. "... He's everything you're looking for: tough, awareness, study, again, confidence. He's just limited movement-wise. I like the kid's competitiveness.

"Movement is going to be his issue. I don't know that we're going to be able to overcome that with him. I'm pulling for him."

Those concerns were validated late in the preseason game against the Browns, when Bullough couldn't make two plays in pass coverage during a scoring drive in the final minutes that cemented Cleveland's victory.

A frustrated Tampa defensive coordinator Mike Smith said, "Well, we can see why Riley is not gonna ..." and then doesn't finish his thought.

Best quote: After a brutal practice full of mistakes and poor execution, Koetter turned to the referee and said, "Don't tell anybody what you saw in practice today."

Next: The season wraps up with a look at the final cuts during the fifth and final episode at 10 p.m. ET on Sept. 5 on HBO.