NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be on the same practice field for a couple days, though their football careers will be forever linked.
They practiced on the same field Wednesday for one period as Winston’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers worked out with Mariota’s Tennessee Titans. There wasn’t time for any chit chat between them.
“I just know he’s a great guy, and I just love seeing him out here competing,” Winston said.
NFL fans know more than that. They are both quarterbacks. They are both Heisman Trophy winners, and they were the first players drafted in 2015.
But they didn’t get a chance watch one another practice, much less catch up on things.
“It was separate, so I didn’t really get a chance to go see him,” Mariota said.
The decision by Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter and first-year Titans coach Mike Vrabel for their teams to work out together before Saturday night’s preseason game brought back up the Winston-Mariota debate.
The two worked out together before the 2015 NFL draft out in California. Titans general manager Jon Robinson worked with Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers chose Winston as the No. 1 pick overall over Mariota. Now Robinson has Mariota as the first of those two quarterbacks not only to reach the playoffs but win a game once in the postseason.
“Mariota, he just does a great job and the Tennessee Titans have a good football team,” Winston said. “We have a good football team too. We just have to win more games. It’s always good to compete against guys, but he’s done a great job here and I have to continue to work on my craft and lead our team to the playoffs.”
The Bucs will be without Winston for the first three games this season as the quarterback sits out a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The NFL announced the suspension in June after the league investigated an allegation Winston groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in March 2016.
That’s why Ryan Fitzpatrick started the Bucs’ exhibition opener, a 26-24 win over Miami, and Winston worked with the second-team. Koetter said Fitzpatrick got the majority of the work with the Bucs’ first-team offense when they worked on a separate field against the Titans’ defense.
Winston and Mariota will practice against each other again Thursday in the second of joint practices between the Bucs (1-0) and Titans (0-1). Then Fitzpatrick is expected to start again Saturday night.
Koetter declined to compare where Winston and Mariota are now as quarterbacks going into their fourth seasons, happy with Winston.
“I’m not a good person to ask that, because I coach Jameis and I rarely get a chance to watch Marcus,” Koetter said. “We know where Jameis is at, you’ve documented that many times. I can’t compare the two because I rarely get to watch Marcus.”
Not only does Mariota have the edge over Winston in the NFL with a playoff victory, he also has two very big wins. Mariota and Oregon routed Winston and Florida State 59-20 in the College Football Playoff semifinal in January 2015 . Mariota also is 1-0 against Winston and the Bucs with a 42-14 win in the quarterbacks’ NFL debut in 2015.
The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner said he’s never really been concerned with being linked to Winston during the pre-draft process or since. Mariota knows who he is and focuses on trying to improve himself.
“It’s always kind of interesting our paths cross again,” Mariota said. “But it is good to see him, and hopefully we’ll just continue to find ways to get better and look back on it and just kind of laugh about it.”