Jameis Winston optimistic about Saints even amid change – Crescent City Sports

(Photo: William E. Anthony)

Jameis Winston’s first season as a starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints ended in Game 7 of the season when he suffered a serious knee injury.

While recovering from reconstructive surgery, his head coach (Sean Payton) quit, his contract expired and the Saints pulled out all the stops to try to trade him for a replacement (Deshaun Watson).

But Watson opted to go to the Cleveland Browns and Winston signed a new two-year contract with the Saints.

And as far as Winston is concerned, all’s well that ends well.

“I’m a very optimistic guy,” Winston said on a conference call Monday.

He is optimistic about his rehab: “I feel good. I’m ahead of schedule. I’ll be back long before training camp.

He is optimistic about the continuity provided by former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen replacing Payton and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and passing game coordinator / quarterbacks coach Ronald Curry Jr. being retained to lead the offense: “I am glad Pete is going to take the reins and RC is there so we can blast this offense.

He is optimistic about the opportunity that awaits him with the expected return of star receiver Michael Thomas, who missed last season due to multiple foot surgeries: “With Michael Thomas, we have a better receiving corps. It changes the way defenses prepare for us.

And he is optimistic about the future, saying he was “eternally grateful” to owner Gayle Benson, executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis and vice president of football operations Khai Harley “for the opportunity. to lead this organization again”.

Winston continued to use the term “continuity” even amid the historic changes that took place last year.

He said he chose to sign with the Saints as a free agent for the 2020 season because of Payton (“one of the best play callers to coach the game”) and the former quarterback- fullback Drew Brees, who retired after the 2020 season.

“And now neither of them is here,” Winston said.

But even with his rehab and Payton’s absence, Winston sees an upside this offseason that he didn’t have last offseason when competing with Taysom Hill to succeed Brees as the starting quarterback. .

This time around, there is no doubt that Winston will be the starting quarterback. Last time out, he wasn’t named a starter until a week before the season opener as “we migrate to Dallas” to escape Hurricane Ida.

Payton’s offense required a significant adjustment for Winston from what he had been used to for five seasons with Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers often had him take snaps from the center and use seven-step drops before unleashing deep passes to take advantage of his strong arm.

The Saints had him operate almost exclusively from the shotgun with a focus on efficient decision making and high percentage passing.

Winston said his main goal was to improve his “intermediate accuracy”.

He threw for fewer yards but was more effective last season than he was at Tampa Bay. He was injured against his former side and Trevor Siemian took a 36-27 win as the Saints improved to 5-2.

“I hate that it happened when it happened and I hate that it happened against who it happened,” Winston said, “but it happened.”

Winston said he quickly “took my mind off football” and “plunged into health”.

“It was very difficult for me to be away from football,” he said, noting he only had “eight weeks” to work with Payton as the coach’s starting quarterback.

The Saints have lost an inordinate number of key players to injuries beyond Winston and Thomas and have endured a series of other absences due to COVID on top of the month-long trip to Dallas.

Still, the team finished 9-8 and narrowly missed the playoffs, leading Winston to call the job Payton did “a coaching miracle.”

Winston said that going forward the team should “appreciate how successful we have been, even under the circumstances”.

He said he and Thomas were both “ready, locked and loaded”.

The team took a hit last week when Terron Armstead, one of the NFL’s top left tackles, signed with Miami as a free agent.

Winston wished Armstead the best, understanding that the Saints could not afford to play him what the Dolphins had paid ($87.5 million, including $43.7 million guaranteed, over five years).

“I wish we could do a double deal together,” Winston said.

But Winston got his contract (two years, $28 million) after “a bunch of difficult conversations” with the Saints coaching staff and the “business side” to determine his value to the franchise before, during and after the match. Watson’s court.

“The bottom line is that this is a business,” Winston said. “I’m glad it turned out that way. I love this team and I love this city.

Now Watson is in Cleveland, Hill has returned to his role as backup quarterback and jack-of-all-trades and Winston for the first time in three years has an entire offseason preparing to be the starting quarterback for the Saints.

“Now I have this opportunity,” Winston said, “and I’m going to make the most of it.”

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