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Echoes from the Cave: Darkness overshadows Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers

Gil’s weekly column debuting on Bucs Nation.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Gil’s Echoes from the Cave column first debuted in his own outlet The Bay Cave, where the first ever column was referenced right here on Bucs Nation in the daily links thread. It later moved to Joe Bucs Fan, and has now made it’s way here.

I wasn’t planning on starting this column until next week, assuming the news on Winston’s suspension would become official then. But there is darkness that hovers over Tampa Bay. No, I am not talking about the thunderstorms we have seen the past few days in the bay area. The darkness being felt is the let down that many feel after quarterback Jameis Winston’s suspension was handed down on Thursday. That let down is the darkness that consumes those invested in the Buccaneers.

Many believed in Winston — some still do. But many more have already come out to say that they can no longer support him, and for some others, they can no longer support the team. Bucs Nation’s Kyle Marks wrote that winning will cure all. And while I may have agreed with him at some point prior to Thursday, I am not sure I can agree with him here. Winning may not change the opinions of many detractors, at least not in this case, and it’s worse when the league states that they found the claims of the victim to be credible, however, to what degree?

The Bucs ownership group in the Glazer family are on record supporting Winston as their quarterback. Adding to that, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported that they have no plans of releasing him. But at what point is it enough to warrant a release or a mutual parting?

We know the stories of Winston’s time at Florida State. The organization did extensive background work on him and deemed it to be fine to select him first overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. Because of their findings, we weren’t supposed to experience such angst while he donned the pewter and red. Heck, even I spent countless hours and days interviewing and talking to people close to Winston while at Florida State. Definitely not as extensive as what the Buccaneers did, but it was enough for me to believe that the character concerns were overblown.

Yet here we are.

It may not have been a mistake in the eyes of those proudly touting the words, “I told you so.” They feel this is who Jameis Winston is. I’m not buying into that.

In his latest piece, Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman wondered if Winston can ever be trusted by the organization. In my eyes, I’d like to say yes. I’d like to say that he is focused on being a better person. In fact, I know he is. He has made life changes. But I’ve been let down and so have you whether you believe it or not. That’s that darkness I’m referring to.

Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers have to hit the reset button. This will be a joint effort. This isn’t strictly on Winston. This is on the players, coaches, and anyone else associated with the team. Can they or will they move on? What can be done differently?

Those questions are nothing compared to what lies ahead for the Bucs. There will be concerns over sponsors pulling out of deals, charities questioning motives, etc. To remedy that, Tampa Bay will have to make changes that may have marketing implications. Don’t include him on the game’s program guides each week, take him off of billboards that stand tall throughout the bay area, and take him down off of the corner of Raymond James Stadium. Don’t make him visible to the public. Simply worry about the play on the field and hope that everything else falls into place.

But it’ll take more than hope to lighten up the darkness and all that may still not be enough to sway the naysayers.

What about from a team’s perspective? Do you revoke his captain’s patch off his jersey? I would. Make him no bigger than the next player. How he handles that could be the ultimate test.

No, nothing that has been suggested here will erase everything that happened over two years ago. This isn’t about forgiving his actions, whatever they may have been. This also is not downplaying the bigger picture. As a person, we should hope that he continues to better himself in life. Will we, as a society, be able to stand by him as he takes on that challenge. If the team is in fact moving forward with him, they have a lot of things to consider if they do.

All while the darkness continues to hang over them and everyone else.