New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston
Local media video conference
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
"First and foremost, I'd just like to say thank you to Mrs. Benson, Mickey Loomis and Coach Payton for believing in me and giving me another opportunity to play football for the New Orleans Saints and play quarterback here. It was an honor last year and you guys believing in me to give it another year with such an amazing organization that you, Mrs. Benson, have established and Mickey and Sean that you've created. You guys have given me another opportunity to be a part of that so I'm honored to be a part of that. I know a lot has been going on with Drew Brees retiring, someone who I've admired my entire life growing up just down the street in Birmingham, Ala. Cheering in 2009 after all the devastating things that happened during Katrina, for this team to persevere and win that Super Bowl in '09 and watching Sean and Drew hold that Lombardi Trophy, just being inspired by that my entire football career so thank you, Drew. This is still a surreal moment for me even to think that you're not playing football anymore. Man, I love you and it was a privilege to get to learn from you last year and really just see what I've admired from afar, what was real. I'm just thankful that you showed me how to be an NFL quarterback, man that was a privilege. To my teammates, thank you for accepting me, for challenging me, competing with me, getting the best out of me at practice when I first came in there. I'm just happy with the relationships I built last year and I'm happy to continue those and I'm thankful for them and I'm excited to be their teammate again this year."
What did you learn about the organization from last season that made you want to return? And how much are you looking forward to competing for the starting job in training camp?
"I think the biggest thing is the competitiveness that this organization possesses. Everyone throughout the whole building is competing, is giving it their best. And I was challenged by that. And I admire that. And that's what I just kind of just sunk into. That is what I'm about, competing. And this organization, it displays that day in and day out."
What did you learn from Drew (Brees)? We've heard for as long as he's been here, people learn under him. What did you learn, because you're used to being the guy. You took a year to step back, what did you learn from him?
"If I took a journal and jotted down everything that he did, day by day, I probably would win a New York Times best-selling book (award). I just got a chance to witness one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time do it. I think that's what I learned, I got to experience what it looked like. I have been chasing the same dream that he has grasped, that Lombardi Trophy. And when you love this game like I do, and when you are ready to work and willing to give it all you got, like I do, and you see that in real life from Drew Brees. That's the easiest way to grasp something, right?"
I think a lot of us when we were thinking about the idea of you going into free agency, we were wondering if there's going to be another offer for you out there, would you even consider coming back here if it is going to be a competition for the starting job? So I guess it's two parts here, did you have other interest from other teams? And if you did, assuming those other teams wanted you to be their starting quarterback, why would you come back here, knowing that the expectation is that you'll be competing for a starting job?
"Well, because I would love to exceed that expectation. I'd love to. I think an important thing is continuity. And what I saw last year is the relationship between an excellent head coach and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time display that day in and day out, and like I said, I sunk into that, I bought into that. And that is why I enjoyed New Orleans and I wanted to come back and compete for that continuity with that coach, with these coordinators, with this team, I think that is what drew me back to New Orleans."
You talked about Drew (Brees) and how he's he helped you last year. What did you learn about yourself in the last year, knowing that it's been a while since you haven't been the guy so you got to take some time to work on yourself?
"I think one of the biggest things that I learned about myself is the communication between my family because my wife and I were in New Orleans, and she was pregnant at the time with a two-year-old during this pandemic. So it was just us for the first time, being married for the first time in our life and we're going through this. Us having a humbling part in our life, right? She's my high school sweetheart so she has been through the ups and downs with me. So I think learning how to be a father and persevere during those trying times, and also grasping this excellent opportunity that was in front of me, being able to be in a building with Drew Brees and Sean Payton and compete with great receivers like Mike Thomas and see great competitors like Alvin Kamara and Terron Armstead compete their butt off. I think it just gave me, that football part gave me a getaway, but learning how to be a father and a man for my wife and my son was the biggest thing I learned about myself last year, and how we will persevere no matter what. That's why I'm in a good mood right now. Because my trainer always said, 'Being a good quarterback won't make you a better man, but being a better man will make you a great quarterback.' So I stood by that, and I'm happy the city of New Orleans gave me that and I was happy that they accepted me. Because my family and I were in there with them."
I wanted to ask you, obviously, you've touched on Drew Brees retiring, did his decision to retire after this season factor in your decision to want to re-sign with the Saints at all given it would open up an opportunity to compete? Or was it just more the experience you had last year?
"It was a little bit of both, man. Obviously, I just respected everything, I respected Drew's (Brees) time, I respected everything that he was going through. I didn't want to interrupt his process at all. And I never even asked him, where was he in his process? I just respected him. And that's it, just like I respect this organization. It just happened that I was able to have an opportunity to play quarterback here and compete to play quarterback here. And I really liked that opportunity."
Is there any type of pressure following up, I mean, maybe if you win this job, is there any pressure following Drew Brees? And if so, how do you handle it or just kind of what's your mindset of following up a quarterback like Drew Brees?
"You just, you learn from his methods. And you be the best version of yourself. Like, that's what Drew Brees would tell me, you be Jameis Winston. You don't have to be Drew Brees, right? So that's, that's what it is. I feel that it's a tremendous amount of responsibility, following up behind a guy like Drew Brees, but I embrace that, I know that that is a challenging responsibility, but I really embraced that. And I would love to carry that torch from him. I would love to be able to provide the excitement and joy and resilience that he provided for this city just like that."
How would you describe this last year? Was it kind of just like a year of evaluation, self-scouting a whole year? And if so, is there anything about your approach that you've changed just from being able to sit back, watch and learn?
"Yeah, I think the biggest thing was just being able to take in your decisions and worry about just only decisions, not really worried about the results, because I didn't have a chance to go out in the game and really throw for touchdowns and experience the excitement that comes with succeeding in football. I had to go out there and watch Drew (Brees) and Taysom (Hill) go out there and competitively move the ball up and down the field. And I had to be more from a sideline perspective, focusing on the schemes, how we're attacking the team, how's the team trying to attack us? So that allowed me to just, you know, get that side of the field as well and be able to apply that same knowledge when I'm on the field."
Just your general thoughts on being in a competition with Taysom Hill for the starting job?
"I embrace every competition and I know Taysom's a competitive guy as well, and that's where I'll leave that. I'm excited to be getting back with this team. And being around him, being in that room with him again, competing, challenging each other and leading a team, to where we want to be, because I know that is what we both want. We both want the Lombardi Trophy. We both want that. Something that I experienced last year that will impact me forever, is being able to play in those meaningful games, being in the playoffs, competing with your teammates to a deeper level. And that's what I'm about, competing and winning games. And that's what we're going to do."
I have two for you, real quick. Was there any other suitors that you seriously considered prior to your decision to agree to terms with the Saints? Or did you make this kind of a quick and easy process?
"Man, I'm excited to be the Saints quarterback right now. That's what my focus is on right now. And I am talking to you guys because you are the city that I'm embracing, right now. So, let's talk about us."
Also, you know, we talked last summer about a lot of changes you were making with your diet and your physical shape and the LASIK surgery and your health. I know we didn't get to see much of it on the field, but how much better do you think all of those things played into how much better you thought you were playing and feeling throughout last season?
"I think with all that stuff being done (it helped). (But) You cannot substitute a chance to be in a room with Pete Carmichael, Joe Lombardi, Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, (offensive assistant) D.J. Williams, these guys like, that was the experience of a lifetime. So, a procedure, all these different types of things, you know, I was excited to do that. I believe the LASIK was an excellent idea. I enjoy seeing things clearly. But those experiences are the... those experiences and moments are the moments that's going to help me be the quarterback that I want to be, day in and day out."
In what ways do you foresee this offense evolving now that it's not tailored to Drew Brees? Like do you think Sean Payton kind of uses this opportunity as a way to not start over but, you know, maybe kind of do something totally new this year with new quarterbacks?
"I'm excited to discover that same thing with you. One thing I know about Coach Payton is he enjoys challenges and he enjoys new beginnings. And I think he's looking at this opportunity like, kind of how like I view it as how, you know, when he got a young quarterback from San Diego, right? Like when he got Drew (Brees) from the Chargers and they exploded together. So, I know that he has a...his arsenal is filled with a lot of things. Like when you see what he was able to, you know, do with Taysom (Hill) last year, how he completely kind of changed our offense, and we had like, great success. Like, it was incredible. Just watching a guy work like that. And that's why I say, it was that room. It was that entire room, creating something like, to come out as a masterpiece. And that's what I really loved about Sean (Payton) and Pete, Taysom, D.J., and all the guys that was in that room."
Do you feel like Coach Payton can help you reduce your interceptions and did you learn anything from Drew Brees that can help to reduce turnovers?
"I touched on it briefly earlier, one of the greatest things I learned from Drew (Brees) is we are making decisions based on it being the right decision. We're not concerned about the result, right? Because over time, the right decision is going to get us where we want to be and I bought into that and I had a chance to not just hear it and go and do it, like I had to hear it then go and do it and then I had to see it, right. We saw it over and over and over again from Drew (and down) from Taysom (Hill). They're doing it over and over again. So when that's my perspective, I'm like, OK, I want to do this over and over and over again. Like I don't want to be over here. I want to be over there with with those guys getting the opportunity to compete. So yeah, I love it."
You were on the field with Drew right next to him in the last moments of that final game and you gave him a hug and I guess what did that moment mean to you? Being able to be with him in those moments? And if you want to talk about it, what did the two of you say to one another?
"Well, that moment, to me was like…being able to have an entire season with Drew Brees was a dream of mine. For him to put his arm around me, just give me any encouraging words after I saw the resilience, the passion, the way that he went and approached every single day. But that to even be a story I was touched by that because he doesn't even know how much he means to me and my family, for real. But I'm not going to share what he shared with me. I don't even remember, but it touched me. Having a chance to play in the playoffs. after winning a playoff game, like getting the chance to throw a touchdown in the playoffs. I love football. That's all I've done my entire life and someone that I look up (to) ,that I admire, that I could actually touch (who) was my teammate and I had a chance to serve him. I'm speechless. That really gives me (an) emotional (feeling) because I really love Drew Brees. I don't think he understands. I know my wife does. I know my family does, but you don't understand the impact that him and a lot of other quarterbacks had on me as a quarterback growing up in Bessemer, Ala. You never understand (at times), a lot of people don't understand the human aspect to an athlete. But Nah, man, I just know I love Drew Brees for real, I really do. And I was just happy that I was able to witness what he did and how he persevered last year. And it's still, like I said, that's why this day is about Drew Brees because I really didn't want to talk with the media, because I wanted to respect Drew's time. But thank you for asking that question. That definitely was the best question this whole time because no one's ever asked me that. So thank you."
Since the season ended, Sean Payton's made it no secret that the coaching staff, the other players, everybody really enjoyed having you around, and they really liked what they saw from you. Just what was your mindset, and you touched on this a little bit, but your mindset as you went into work every day. And just how much did it mean to hear that from the head coach?
"Man, you just want to go to work for that guy. Sean is an amazing guy. And I can't continue to harp on like, it's that room, it's the entire organization, it's the atmosphere like it's contagious there, man. Like when you seeing these people go to work every day and like I said, like when you see somebody that you admire, go to work every day, you just fall into that. And that's what you want when you become a part of that. And I felt like I did become a part of that. That's why I'm just thankful. I'm thankful for this opportunity, man."
Is this just an opportunity for you to prove what you can do in a place that you clearly think suits you well?
"I look at every day is an opportunity to get better to be the best quarterback that can be and that's how I'm approaching this opportunity. Because I know I'm a winner, I know I love to play some football and I'm ready to lead this team and serve this team any way that I can. So we can win football games and bring some excitement to the city. I know people in the city got the same love and passion that I got. I know that, so I'm excited. That's why I hope we can get some fans (back in the stands). I hope we can get some normalcy back in that city. Because I know that city is going to stand up and I'm ready."
What do you think of Taysom Hill as a teammate and a friend and just the stuff he's been able to accomplish as a football player?
"Well, I admire Taysom (Hill) as well. Just his ability to do literally everything and the same thing, seeing him how he works in that room, the way he maneuvers, how he handled all of his responsibilities like a pro and really handled all of his responsibilities and getting a chance to grow with him and compete with him. I'm excited because I know the type of teammate that I have and I know the type of teammate that I'm going to be to him. All we're going to do is help elevate each other and to lead each other into great paths together. So I'm excited to be back with him and be his teammate and see where we can go together."
"I look forward to meeting all of you face to face. I know the Zoom thing's been kind of difficult, but hey, I'm praying for all of you. I'm excited to be back in that city! (I) look forward to getting in front of all of you (to talk to you). Thank you, peace and blessings."