Jameis Winston addressed the media Thursday for the first time since he was handed a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy -- a punishment that stems from a female Uber driver accusing Winston of groping her in Scottsdale, Arizona, in March 2016.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback acknowledged he let the team, community and himself down with his off-field actions.
"I'm just focused on moving forward, that's all I can do," Winston said. "I've grown and learned from this situation. It's a learning experience. [I've worked] hard since I got here and I'm going to continue to work hard on and off the field."
The quarterback is eligible to participate in Bucs practices and preseason action. Winston will miss games against the Saints, Eagles and Steelers before returning in time for Tampa's Week 4 meeting with the Bears.
Winston repeatedly stated he's focused on moving forward and learning from his transgressions. The 24-year-old said he recognizes some fans are disappointed in his actions.
"I understand they're disappointed; I'm disappointed. I should have never put myself in that situation," he said. "I tell the fans to continue to support this team, continue to support me because I've been here. My main goal as a leader is to be a huge advocate in the community and I've done that and I want to continue to do that."
Coach Dirk Koetter was asked if Winston remains a team leader after his controversy and suspension.
"I think your team has a lot of leaders, and being a leader starts with being a leader of yourself. I think that's one of Jameis' strengths as a football player, is his leadership. But where we're standing right now with the three-game suspension, it's time that Jameis leads from the rear. And there's nothing wrong with that.
"... Jameis is talking to guys behind the scenes, way more than anybody knows, one-on-one conversations, instead of being the guy out in front of the team."
The quarterback added he's taken steps to improve himself, but declined to say how long he's given up alcohol or if he's in a program. Winston said he apologized to his teammates and doesn't want to be a distraction heading into the season.
"Initially I talked to my teammates first; I acknowledged them yesterday, but I apologized after that," he said. "I don't want to be a distraction. I just want to be able to focus on the season and move forward."
Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick worked with the starters in the Bucs' first practice of training camp Thursday. Koetter said he expects Fitzpatrick to start the season under center during Winston's suspension.