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Winston sets about gaining trust ‘of all 32’ NFL teams

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston gets set to pass against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during NCAA play at Doak Campbell Stadium last season. (John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports)

Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston gets set to pass against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during NCAA play at Doak Campbell Stadium last season. (John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS - 

Jameis Winston got right into it.

Didn’t even wait for a question about his much-discussed off-field character issues.

“First off,” the former Florida State Seminoles quarterback said Friday at his NFL scouting combine news conference, “before we start anything, I want to let you all know I know I made mistakes.

“And I know I have a past, but right now it’s about me moving forward and earning the trust of all these 32 teams out there.”

At this stage, two months before the draft, the 21-year-old is seen as the likely No. 1 overall pick. But Winston was as much of a continuing disappointment off the field in two years of starting at Florida State as he was a superstar on the field.

His harshest critics say never mind that he was the youngest collegian ever to win the Heisman Trophy, as a 19-year-old redshirt freshman in 2013.

And never mind the fact he rescued victory from seemingly sure defeat more times than even most Seminoles fans can quickly count up.

The 6-foot-3¾, 231-pound passer became a young man “known to police” in Tallahassee, Fla. And that’s not a good thing in any era for any aspiring NFLer.

But especially in 2015.

Winston’s roll call of infamy:

* an alleged sexual assault, which after a delayed, highly criticized police investigation did not result in any charges being filed against him;

* receiving a citation for shoplifting after stealing $32 worth of crab legs and crawfish from a grocery store;

* an accusation that he swiped a pop from a Burger King;

* a one-game suspension for standing on a table in a student cafeteria and screaming an obscenity;

* and being questioned by police about his role in a BB-gun battle on campus.

USA Today reported Friday that because of the alleged sexual-assault incident, Winston probably would receive second-offender punishment should he commit such a deplorable act as an NFLer.

But Winston did not want to talk about any of that stuff Friday. He was mostly smiles, and brushed off repeated probes into those incidents, and into his character.

He probably would have preferred that all questions be about his abilities as a quarterback — and there isn’t a lot of doubt that he stands out, even compared with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, as the most pro-ready passer in this year’s mostly unimpressive quarterback class.

But the character questions had to come, and did. Not that some NFL teams aren’t grilling him here a whole lot less politely.

Winston was asked how he intends to earn those teams’ trust.

“My actions,” he said. “I have to do everything by my actions. It’s not time to explain what I’m going through, but when I do get to a city and a team I plan on getting involved in the community, and create an image — a positive image — and put everything else behind me.

Winston cited another motivator for cleaning up his image and behaviour.

“One thing that helped me realize about all my mistakes is getting a chance to be around the kids,” he said. “I went to read at this elementary (school) in Tallahassee, and when I see how those kids look up to me, I feel bad about myself.

“The hardest thing is just being real with yourself and letting yourself know you let somebody down. I’m a family person, but when I look in kids’ eyes and I see like, ‘Dang, that little kid might have seen something on TV and he can say anything he wants about me,’ and then I have a seven-year-old little brother at home that’s looking up to me every single day.”

There seems to be growing speculation that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, owners of the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, are eyeing Winston.

Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith did little to dispel those projections Wednesday, after acknowledging but almost downplaying Winston’s troubles, then saying “we haven’t taken him off our list right now.”

Winston was asked what he can do or say to assure NFL teams he won’t wind up like Johnny Manziel, last year’s bad-boy quarterback superstar, about whom there were character questions at last year’s combine. Manziel wound up entering rehab a month ago after a troubled, undependable, awful-on-the-field rookie season.

“I can’t speak on behalf of another player, because I’m a different person. I’m Jameis Winston, and I go back to what I came up here to say: that I’m here to gain the trust of all 32 teams.”

How again?

“My actions. You’ll see in a year.”

Let’s hope so.

SHOULDER ISSUES? NONE HERE

There’s nothing wrong with Jameis Winston’s throwing shoulder. At all.

So said Winston himself Friday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium, during his NFL scouting combine news conference.

This, despite reports a couple hours earlier that said in his obligatory combine medical, a weakness of some kind was detected in his shoulder.

“I had an MRI just like everyone else,” Winston said dismissively. “I’ve been playing football since I was four years old, and my shoulder has been fine.”

So no shoulder discomfort at all?

“No sir. I’ve got the same shoulder I done had the last two years at Florida State.”

To prove it, Winston said he will take part in all combine agility, speed and strength tests and, most importantly, will compete against Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley and all other combine QBs in throwing drills Saturday.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/krykslants/


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