NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston patiently entertained a series of questions about the last time he faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Superdome.
As he did, it was apparent Winston wasn’t too interested in dwelling on the moment his 2021 season ended with a left knee injury on a tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White.
“Hopefully, I don’t have to relive that moment again,” said Winston, who missed the last nine games of last season while recovering from reconstructive surgery. “I’m just pressing forward and keeping my eyes focused on this week.”
The Buccaneers (1-0) are back in New Orleans (1-0) today in a game that would give the winner an early lead in the NFC South.
“I’m just grateful I have this opportunity now,” Winston said. “I’m here now — healthy — and I’m ready to rock. That’s it.”
Tampa Bay opened its third season with seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady at quarterback by riding running back Leonard Fournette’s 127 yards rushing to a comfortable 19-3 victory over Dallas.
The Saints by contrast, needed the largest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history to prevail at Atlanta, scoring 17 consecutive points inside the final 12 minutes to win 27-26.
Now Winston gets his second start against the team that drafted him first overall in 2015, but let him go in 2020 when Brady chose to sign with the Bucs after two decades with New England.
“They’re just another team. I’ve got a lot of respect for a lot of those players, some of my old teammates,” Winston said. “But, at the end of the day, it’s a division game, going against the best in Tom Brady. But I don’t get to go against him. I get to go against Devin White and (linebacker) Lavonte David, and (safety) Antoine Winfield and (defensive tackle) Vita Vea and (edge rusher) Shaq Barrett.”
While Brady won a Super Bowl in his first season with Tampa Bay and made the playoffs in his second, the Bucs have gone 0-4 in regular-season games against New Orleans during that span. Brady has thrown eight interceptions in those losses.
“That’s probably the thing that jumps out the most — turnovers,” Brady said. “They are a very physical team. I think they beat us up physically. It’s a tough, hard-nosed team. They’re very well coached.”
Saints Coach Dennis Allen was New Orleans’ defensive coordinator for the first three of those games and served as interim coach in a 9-0 victory at Tampa Bay last December, when Sean Payton stayed home because of a positive covid test.
Allen continues to oversee and call plays for New Orleans’ defense.
Bucs Coach Todd Bowles hopes his offense has a better plan for Allen’s unit this time.
“Anytime you lose to a team more than once or twice,” Bowles said, “you try to put a finger on what they’re trying to do and what you’re doing — and what you can do differently.”
This content was originally published here.