TAMPA – The rise and fall of an undrafted rookie and yet another look at what it is that makes quarterback Jameis Winston one of the best leaders the Buccaneers have ever had.
That was the focus of the third episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which debuted on Tuesday night on HBO.
The rookie: cornerback Maurice Flemming, a player Bucs coach Dirk Koetter gave a shout out to early in camp for being among the first on the field each day working in his own.
“The thing I like about him is that, if I look out of my office (window) about 7 O-clock every morning, he’s out there (on the field) doing drills on his own,’’ Koetter said. “There’s a guy that’s waiting for his opportunity.’’
Flemming was making the most of his opportunity, earning praise from not just Koetter but general manager Jason Licht as well until he injured his knee just a few plays into his stint in the Bucs preseason game against Jacksonville last week.
That, though, is where Flemming may have impressed the Bucs the most, refusing to come off the field and playing out the rest of the game more or less on one leg, which became glaringly apparent as the game wore on and Flemming continued to struggle.
Flemming had a rough against fellow rookie Dede Westbrook, who caught six passes for 131 yards in the fourth quarter, but he managed to get a hand in Westbrook’s face to break up what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass while making one last and lasting impression on Koetter.
“The fact you finished out playing with that (sore knee), after seeing it on film and seeing you get rolled up and how you finished the game, pretty impressive how tough you are,’’ Koetter said. “You have the right qualities. You’re just a little unlucky right now.’’
Unlucky indeed. Those comments from Koetter came as he was informing Flemming he was being waived because of his knee injury, which requires surgery and will keep Flemming out at least a month, if not longer.
Should Flemming return to the Bucs, he’ll come back to a team that clearly belongs to Winston, who has taken the notion of practicing like you play to a whole new level.
Clearly, Winston doesn’t like to lose. Not even in practice, where he scolded running back Peyton Barber like a father might scold his son after Barber failed to go hard enough on a play during a running drill in a joint workout against the Jaguars last week.
“Hey Peyton,’’ Winston screamed after Barber was dropped for a loss on the play. “Don’t go in the hole on that soft (stuff) no more. No, listen! Bring the noise. This is another team. Look me in my eye (when I talk to you) – Bring. The. Noise. We got to win. We ain’t going to take it easy on anybody.’’
Barber wasn’t the only one scolded by Winston in Jacksonville. Fourth-string quarterback Sefo Liufau heard it from Winston as well after Liufau wondered out loud if maybe Winston wasn’t taking this notion of having to win in practice too far.
“No, it is worth it Sefo,’’ Winston said incredulously. “It’s win or lose. Competition-wise, we’re trying to get better. It’s a competition every rep. We got to win at everything we do.’’
Winston’s not wrong about that. After all, that’s how winners are built.