Ryan Fitzpatrick in line for Week 4 start regardless of how he fares against Steelers

Buccaneers backup Ryan Fitzpatrick has been arguably the best quarterback in the NFC thus far and is very likely to remain in that role in Week 4, when Jameis Winston returns from suspension, sources said. Team officials have not met to make a formal decision on the matter, however, it is not lost on any of them how well the veteran has performed and for various reasons they expect to continue with him at least in the short term.

Tampa hosts Pittsburgh Monday night – which already would cut into Winston's preparation time, needing to get ramped up after spending this month suspended for his misconduct with an Uber driver in 2016 (he is now being sued over that alleged groping). It is a less-than-ideal time to make a quarterback change ahead of a visit to Chicago. That, coupled with the near-flawless play of Fitzpatrick and the energy and cohesion he has brought to the offense – seemingly bringing the best out of every skill player – lends itself to maintaining Fitzpatrick at least for Week 4.

Fitzpatrick has strong support among teammates – especially the offensive line, sources said – and after a shocking 2-0 start despite paying a very difficult schedule (New Orleans nearly reached the NFC Championship Game and Philadelphia won the Super Bowl) – the staff and front office realize the need to keep harmony and chemistry going. The multitude of players speaking out in favor of keeping this offense humming as-is has also not gone unnoticed.

One source said it would be a "week to week" proposition once Winston comes back, and the organization made it clear to Winston before he left for his suspension how much faith they have in him after a strong preseason. He remains in line to start the bulk of this season as things stand now, but precisely when that return begins is unknown. Winston is particularly close with Mike Evans – who became among the highest-paid receivers in the NFL in the offseason – and the organization wants to see what he can do with these same pieces.

But that is highly unlikely to begin prior to Week 5 at this point.

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories