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New Orleans Saints fully confident in quarterback Jameis Winston

'I know that I'm prepared and ready to go'

Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season including quarterback Jameis Winston (2).
Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Green Bay Packers in Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season including quarterback <forge-entity title="Jameis Winston" slug="jameis-winston" code="player">Jameis Winston</forge-entity> (2).

Jameis Winston considers himself an NFL starter.

So, too, do his New Orleans Saints teammates.

Whether Winston makes the 81st start of his career, and 10th with the Saints, still is a bit murky. Entering Sunday's game against Tampa Bay (2-1) in the Caesars Superdome, there remains a chance that Derek Carr sufficiently will be healed from an AC joint sprain he suffered four days ago that he will start for New Orleans (2-1).

Carr was a limited participant in practice Friday and is listed as questionable for the game.

But Winston, the Saints' No. 2 quarterback entering this season after entering the previous two years as the starter, is ready if called upon and his teammates are ready to assist. After Carr was injured in the third quarter of New Orleans' 18-17 loss to Green Bay on Sunday, Winston completed 10 of 16 passes for 101 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions.

"From what I got to watch, he did a great job," Carr said. "Jameis is a starter in this league. We have a couple of guys that can start NFL football games in our league, and Jameis is another one of those guys.

"Jameis came in – in practice I take every rep and he did a great job of stepping in with no reps and playing good football. As he knows, in that role no matter where you're at, when you're called upon, that's the expectation. I thought he did a great job for what he was asked to do."

Beginning with 2:56 left, Winston led an eight-play, 47-yard drive – completing four of six passes for 45 yards – to help New Orleans maneuver into position for a possible game-winning field goal; Blake Grupe's 46-yard attempt sailed wide right with 1:05 left.

"Right now, we don't know (who will start)," Winston said. "But I know that I'm prepared and ready to go.

"I'm not sure if I've been in this situation before, but I know that someone has and I'm just grateful for the opportunity."

Whether Winston or Carr, there will be an assist provided by the return of All-Pro running back Alvin Kamara, who missed the first three games due to an NFL suspension.

Kamara returned in shape and Coach Dennis Allen said he looked "explosive" in practice Wednesday. Whether as a runner or as a receiver, Kamara's presence could help jump-start an offense that's averaging 17.7 points per game and has produced four touchdowns.

Winston started the first seven games of 2021 and the first three games last season. In the seven games with Winston in '21, Kamara had 133 carries for 480 yards and two touchdowns, and 37 receptions for 256 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 24 touches for 105 yards per game.

In two games with Winston last season – Kamara was inactive with an injury for one game – he totaled 24 carries for 100 yards and five catches for 19 yards, and didn't score a touchdown.

"If Jameis has got to step up and play, you know how Jameis is," Kamara said. "He's got that energy and he wants to get out there and he wants to do everything that he can to help us win. Just us being able to rally around him, just like they were rallying around Derek.

"There are some things we've got to clean up up front, to be able to protect. As long as we protect Jameis and give him the time and opportunity to throw, and give him some of the calls he likes – because I know he's going to go and stand on the table, he's fiery and he wants to throw the ball downfield and he wants to make splash plays, he wants to keep everybody engaged.

"Just understanding there's spots that we've got to pick and sometimes we take what they give us, and other times we can take our shots and attack."

Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said pushing the ball down the field is one of Winston's strengths. He'll need proper protection in order to do that, or much of anything else. New Orleans has allowed 12 sacks in three games; Carr has taken 11 of them, and his injury occurred on a play where he was sacked.

Allen said all performances much rise in order for the team to be successful.

"We feel confident in Jameis being able to go in there and help lead us to victory," Allen said. "If he's called upon to do so, we'll go out and play well, he'll do a great job for us and we're excited about it.

"If Derek's not able to go and Jameis takes the reigns, there's going to be a lot of other people that are going to be involved in making sure that we're successful. Receivers are going to have to step up, offensive line is going to have to step up, runners and tight ends, defense is going to have to step up. It's a total team effort."

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