Buccaneers' coach won't commit to starting Jameis Winston after QB's suspension ends

If Jameis Winston was hoping to get a public vote of confidence from the Buccaneers this week, that definitely didn't happen after the team's first practice of training camp.  

With Winston set to miss the first three games of the season due to suspension, one of the interesting questions in Tampa is whether or not the beleaguered quarterback will be getting his starting job back after he returns to the team in Week 4. Dirk Koetter was asked about that exact situation on Thursday, and let's just say that the Bucs head coach definitely sounded non-committal about starting Winston in Week 4. 

"Week 4 is a long ways away," Koetter said, via JoeBucsFan.com.  "So, you know, let's worry about Week 4 in Week 4. Right now, let's worry about preseason and getting ready for the Saints."

On one hand, if Koetter was absolutely confident that Winston was going to be his quarterback, then he could have offered a simple, "The plan is for Jameis to start." That would have been a vote of confidence for Winston, but would have still left Koetter some room to change his mind down the road. 

On the other hand, this is the NFL and anything can happen, so why commit to a starting quarterback for a game that won't be played until Week 4.

The Bucs will be going into the season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starter and if he were to open the year with a 3-0 record against Tampa's brutal opening schedule (at New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh), then there would be no reason to send him to the bench right away. 

Not to mention, the Bucs will be in kind of an awkward situation heading into Week 4 and that's because their Week 3 game is on a Monday night. With a short week before Week 4, Koetter might just decide to let Fitzpatrick start so that Winston doesn't have to rush back into action. After that, the Bucs have a bye in Week 5 and Winston could presumably be ready to go for Week 6. 

That being said, it's definitely worth pointing out that Koetter gave a non-committal answer and that's because the entire organization has been kind of non-committal about Winston's future ever since his suspension was handed down. 

As a quick refresher, Winston was investigated by the NFL for nearly seven months over an incident that occurred more than two years ago. After the investigation was complete, the NFL found that Winston inappropriately touched an an Uber driver in Arizona during an incident that took place in Scottsdale on March 13, 2016. 

Since the suspension was officially handed down on June 28, the Buccaneers have conveniently left Winston -- their star quarterback -- out of some key promotional material for the upcoming season. Not only was Winston left out of team marketing videos for 2018, but he also won't be getting his own giant mural at Raymond James Stadium. After getting a mural in 2016 and 2017, it's almost certainly not a coincidence that the Bucs decided not to give one to Jameis in 2018. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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