Saints QB Jameis Winston wants to keep emotions in check vs. Buccaneers: 'This week is big'

Jameis Winston faces his former Tampa Bay team for the first time as a starting quarterback Sunday when the Bucs head to New Orleans to face the Saints.

The former No. 1 overall pick spent last year as Drew Brees' backup after the Bucs upgraded from Winston to Tom Brady en route to a Super Bowl victory.

The LASIK-corrected quarterback is now the Saints' starter heading into an important matchup between division rivals.

"This week is big," Winston said Thursday, per ESPN's Mike Triplett. "But I mean every week is big for me. Being out a year, you get a chance to see how much you miss being away from this game.

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

In Winston's final year as the Buccaneers' starter in 2019, he became the eighth player in NFL history with 5,000-plus pass yards in a season and the first player with 30-plus pass TD and 30-plus INT in a single season.

Winston's career in Tampa Bay was a cocktail of big plays and big turnovers. The 27-year-old said he's trying to corral his emotions, which partially led to some of those boneheaded giveaways during his time in Tampa.

"I've always been an emotional football player," Winston said. "I think that's something that I'm trying to work on -- being present instead of being stuck in my feelings. As a quarterback, we have to be present all the time and aware of everything that's going on. Sometimes too much emotion can lead us places that we don't want to go.

"Obviously I want to beat 'em, I want to beat 'em 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 gotta beat that's in this division. And they've got a good team, they're coming in here hot. So we've gotta stand our ground and represent at our house."

The Saints haven't asked Winston to do much, leaning on the ground game as they've gotten off to a 4-2 start.

At the end of 2019, Bucs coach Bruce Arians was asked if he thought the Buccaneers could win with a QB other than Winston. Rarely one to hide his feelings, Arians replied: "Another quarterback? Oh, yeah. [If] we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one too. We're going to have this defense."

The Bucs then went out and signed the G.O.A.T. And they've won a lot.

Winston might want to bury his emotions ahead of Sunday afternoon's contest, but those words from Arians at the end of his time in Tampa Bay still have to sting.

Not that Jameis is letting on about his feelings.

"Everything happens for a reason," Winston said, noting he's not bitter. "And I'm very grateful for that organization and for the Glazer family giving me the opportunity, drafted No. 1 overall to that city. That city's done a lot for me, and I know I've done a lot for that city. That's where I stay at now. So I definitely love that city.

"This week it's time to play and all the lovey-dovey stuff is behind."

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