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New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston sets priorities as he prepares to start against his former team

'I'm trying to go out there and beat everybody that we play, no matter who it is'

The New Orleans Saints take on the Seattle Seahawks on the road in Week 7 of the 2021 NFL season.

Absolutely, Jameis Winston wants to lead the New Orleans Saints to a complete dismantling of Tampa Bay on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome. Undeniably, the quarterback wants to guide his team (4-2) to victory over his former team, the Buccaneers (6-1), for whom he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, and for whom he was the starter until 2019, before he joined the Saints as an unrestricted free agent.

But it's not so much because of the perceived narrative, that Tampa Bay gave up on him and chose another direction, and vengeance is foremost on his mind, and a little nose-rubbing would be cathartic.

If any of that is the case, Winston wasn't divulging Wednesday. What he was sharing, after watching virtually all of the 2020 season as a backup behind Drew Brees and Taysom Hill, was this:

"This week is big, but every week is big for me," he said. "Being out a year, you get a chance to see, like, how much you miss being away from this game. I got a chance to watch Drew play, and that was fun and dandy, but at the end of the day, I still wanted to play.

"I love this game, man. Yeah, I'm playing against the old squad, but I love this game. I'm trying to go out there and beat everybody that we play, no matter who it is.

"That's most important thing that I've learned in this league. It's about winning games, and any way that I can do that – win games – I'm up for that. Yeah, this is an opponent that I've been there and done that with this team, but I want to win football games and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the next opponent. And that's who we've got to beat. It'd be good for us that I'm able to beat an opponent that I played for, but we've just got to win. That's it."

Winston, who has completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 1,114 yards and 13 touchdowns, with three interceptions this season, said controlling his emotions is a work in progress.

"I've always been an emotional football player, and that's something I'm trying to work on," he said. "Being present, instead of being stuck in my feelings. As a quarterback, we have to be present at all times and aware of everything that's going on.

"I come from a level of gratitude and optimism. A lot of people don't agree with that all the time, but I'm grateful I get a chance to play this team. Obviously, I want to beat them. I want to beat them bad and in my heart, I'm ready to rock. But at the end of the day, they're another opponent. Another opponent that we've got to beat and that's in this division. They've got a good team, they're coming in here hot so we've got to stand our ground and represent at our house."

Tampa Bay currently leads the NFC South Division. New Orleans, a game back in the loss column, has won the division title the previous four years and swept the season series against the Bucs last season, when the Saints didn't lose a division game.

Coach Sean Payton said he's confident that Winston understands his role for Sunday's game.

"I think he's smart enough and mature enough to focus on the things you need to do to win," Payton said. "There's a handful of players that were teammates of his and there are probably a group of new faces as well and at that position, you want to play well. Obviously you want to play well against a team you were a member of.

"I think (of) the task at hand, and we preach it all the time. How do we win this game? What's the formula to win this game? I'm sure he understands it and is focused.

"It's not like he's playing defensive end and they smashed his car (like) in the movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". Do you guys remember the scene? He decides to take over the game. He's (Winston) playing quarterback, so he needs to be precise, on point and I think he understands that."

From Winston's words, he seems to understand.

"Some players have that instinct in them where they can just turn it on and just like, 'You're the enemy and I'm fixing to drill you into the ground,' " he said. "I think I have that at times, that eye of the tiger. I try to be poised but at the end of the day I'm still trying my best to win, trying my best to step on somebody's neck. I can't do that literally, but I definitely want to defeat my opponent."

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