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Jameis Winston finds fit, looking to 'serve' with New Orleans Saints

'If you have faith that you will become a starting quarterback again, you take this opportunity in a heartbeat'

Jameis Winston is smart enough to know he's not "the guy," confident enough to still want to be "the guy," and happy to be learning from "the guy."

The newest addition to the New Orleans Saints – who appear to have extended their run as the team with the best quarterbacks room in the NFL – said he's ready to learn and serve with the Saints, after spending his first five seasons with Tampa Bay, which selected him with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

"Every day I'm learning from someone else," Winston said Wednesday. "This isn't going to be new. The only thing that's going to be new is that I'm not the guy. But to myself, I'm still the guy and I'm going to approach every day like I'm the guy. And I think that's what that quarterback room breeds of.

"When you see what happened last year with the amount of play time that Taysom (Hill) and Teddy (Bridgewater) got – I'm not saying that I'm going to expect that this year – but those guys were prepared. And that's the way I'm going to be. I'm going to be prepared for whatever.

"Being a quarterback, you have to be a student of the game, so now I actually get a chance to dive into that more and I actually have a Hall of Fame quarterback (Drew Brees) that I'm learning from – (as) opposed to trying to learn by myself, or use Google."

Winston, who on Tuesday agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Saints, posted big numbers with the Buccaneers: 19,737 passing yards and 121 touchdowns, with 88 interceptions, while completing 61.3 percent of his passes, and 1,044 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns. Last year, he threw for a franchise-record 5,109 yards and had 33 touchdowns, with 30 interceptions.

"Ball security is the primary part of our position," he said. "But also, getting the ball to our guys, getting the ball in their hands so they can make some plays, is another important piece. I'm going to address every part of my game, not just one part. My goal is to be a perfectionist, my goal is to work and actually apply the work so we can get results. That's what I'm focused on."

And once Winston explored the waters as an unrestricted free agent, he said he found New Orleans to be the most attractive destination for him, even though he'll be a backup.

"One thing about humility is, everyone needs to be humbled," Winston said. "Everyone needs those humbling experiences. Throughout my entire life, I started from very humble beginnings. So it's another chapter in my life that I'm going to learn from and is going to make me better.

"We have a Hall of Fame quarterback and a future Hall of Fame coach (Sean Payton). That's very intriguing for a young quarterback like myself. And also, I've been playing against this defense for the past five years and they continue to get better and be dominant. This is a Super Bowl-contending team and I'm just happy to be a part of that."

Likewise, New Orleans is pleased with the talent it has procured in Winston, a former Heisman Trophy winner and national champion at Florida State.

"He's got tremendous arm talent, we know that," said Saints assistant general manager/college scouting director Jeff Ireland. "He's an unbelievable competitor. He can make every throw that's known to football. ...

"When you're playing against Jameis Winston, you've got to be prepared for everything because as long as you have a few weapons on the outside, on the inside, he's going to find them. He's always intriguing. He was the No. 1 pick in the draft for a reason.

"When we talked about him internally, we felt like, 'Gosh, if we could get this guy under our coaching staff, learning from (quarterback coach) Joe Lombardi, from (offensive coordinator) Pete Carmichael, from Sean Payton, and then him being able to watch Drew Brees about how he approaches the game, we felt like his growth would be incredible.

"His humility to kind of take a step back and understand this, even intrigued us more. Because it takes a big man to say, 'Hey, look, I need to learn a little bit more, and I'm going to take the opportunity to learn from some of the best.' That's not always easy for someone to do. So that intrigued us even more.

"I know Sean is in love with the prospect. Having a strong quarterback room – it's the most important position in football. Having someone with his experience and his arm talent and his competitiveness, and he's 26 years old – he's got a lot of football left in him. So we felt like this would be a good opportunity. And who knows how long Drew is going to play again? So, having someone that we can develop and groom, along with Taysom, was an important decision for our football team."

Winston already has established a relationship with Brees, dating to his rookie season.

"There's only a few people in this league that actually follow up with you when you ask them a question, when you reach out to them," he said. "I met Drew pre-draft, back in San Diego. We got a chance to talk and ever since then, he's always been a guy that I can hit up during the season and ask a question, and he'll get back with me. I just love the person that he is and the guy that he is and I'm so excited to learn from him and help serve him in any way."

Winston also spoke to Teddy Bridgewater about Bridgewater's experience as a Saints backup, a role Bridgewater filled for two seasons before signing as the starter with Carolina as an unrestricted free agent.

"He really loved the quarterback room," Winston said. "That was one of the big things, just how they were in that quarterback room and the things that he was able to learn and apply to his game to make him a better leader and a better quarterback."

He's looking to incorporate some of the same measures to help him progress this season, and in the future.

"The primary opportunity is getting a chance to work with Drew Brees, Sean Payton, Taysom Hill and (seventh-round draft pick) Tommy Stevens," Winston said. "And Coach Lombardi, and Coach Carmichael, and Coach (D.J.) Williams. That is my opportunity. That's the biggest, most important opportunity that I have right now. I'm definitely not looking ahead, I'm focused on this, what I have right now.

"I think anybody who has been a starting quarterback in this league, they want to have an opportunity to compete and be the starting quarterback in this league. But when you…have an opportunity to work with a coach who is as successful and as smart as Sean Payton, and work with a quarterback who will be – whenever he decides to retire, he's probably going to get escorted to the Hall of Fame – I don't think you really can beat that. Regardless of what it is.

"Especially if you believe in yourself. If you believe in the ability that you have, if you have faith that you will become a starting quarterback again, you take this opportunity in a heartbeat to work with this amazing group of men."

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