Jameis Winston: 'Hard work to do to regain the trust of my fans'

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston said Thursday that he stood before his teammates on Wednesday afternoon and apologized for putting them in a situation where they'd be without their starting quarterback for the first three games of the season due to his suspension.

As for his fans, he said that he has "hard work to do to regain the trust" of the people who support him.

He said he vowed to be a better man for his newborn son, Antonor, who was born the day after the NFL found him culpable in grabbing the crotch of a female Uber driver in March 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"I'm gonna have to teach that man to respect women and live his day-to-day life [the right way]," Winston said Thursday. "I've really [taken] it upon myself to be proactive and make sure I'm being a great example for him and my fiancée."

The driver did not contact police, but she reported the incident to her employer. She came forward in November 2017, spurring an eight-month investigation by the NFL.

"It's disappointing that Jameis put himself in that position and put our team in that position," said coach Dirk Koetter, who said that backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the first three games.

It was Fitzpatrick who got first-team reps with the offense during Thursday's practice. Winston got mostly third-team reps behind Ryan Griffin, with some first and second-team reps. Koetter would not commit to who will start in four Week 4.

When Winston was asked what he'd say to fans, he said, "I understand that they're disappointed in me. I'm disappointed. I should have never put myself in that situation."

Winston declined to elaborate on the specifics of the night in question. He declined to answer questions about whether he has been evaluated for or is in a program to address alcohol abuse.

When he was asked about a statement he put out in November in which he said he believed "the driver was mistaken," and if he lied or if his memory was unclear, Winston responded, "I don't want to rehash the situation. I want to focus on moving forward," adding that that's why he chose not to appeal the suspension.

This was not the first time Winston had been accused of sexual assault. In 2012, Winston was investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting a female classmate at Florida State. Charges were never filed.

The woman did file a lawsuit in civil court, for which Winston countersued. He and the woman reached a settlement agreement out of court in 2016. Florida State also agreed to pay $950,000 in a Title IX lawsuit for its handling of the complaint, but did not admit liability as part of the settlement.

After what had been described as an exhaustive vetting process, Winston was selected first overall in the 2015 NFL draft and has grown into not only the most visible player on team, but in the community. He was the focal point of "HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers" last season, which included scenes of him meeting with sick children, grief-stricken families and Special Olympians.

Now, Winston's face is absent for the first time since his rookie season from the player murals outside Raymond James Stadium, and he was noticeably absent from the team's promotional videos. The team said it doesn't want that to be a distraction and wants to focus on the players who are starting the season.

When asked if Winston was still looked at as the leader of the Buccaneers, Koetter merely said, "I think your team can have a lot of leaders. I think being a leader starts with leading yourself."