Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 29, 2018 at 9:44 am.

Koetter keeps QB decision in-house

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a quarterback controversy. They don’t know whether to play one of the NFL’s top-ranked quarterbacks or the quarterback who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2015 and looks to be their franchise quarterback for years to come.

It’s a nice problem to have. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for 1,230 yards and 11 touchdowns in three games, going 2-1 while Jameis Winston was serving a three-game suspension.

Winston returned to the team this week and head coach Dirk Koetter met with both quarterbacks to inform them of the plan moving forward.

He won’t announce which player will start against the Bears Sunday, but all indications are the Bucs will ride with the hot hand of Fitzpatrick, even though he is coming off a three-interception game against the Steelers.

“Well, you know, again, the most important thing is the success we’re having. I’m back,” Winston said Wednesday. “I’m more excited about that right now.

“I’m here to assist the best way I possibly can. You know, my passion for this team, my love for this team, goes beyond whether I’m out there throwing the football for this team or not. Like I said, it’s my first day back. Let me enjoy that before I have to start answering any more questions about that.”

Winston’s three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s player conduct policy ended early Tuesday. He said he watched the Bucs’ 30-27 loss to the Steelers Monday Night, but was prepared to greet his teammates after midnight Tuesday at the training facility had they won.

Instead, Winston arrived to work at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday and began a workout with Bucs strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy.

“I think the most important thing is being back in the building,” Winston said. “Yesterday was kind of an off day. I got here about 5:30 (a.m.). Didn’t see a bunch of smiling faces coming in. But today, everybody came back energetic and it felt like home. So I’m excited to be back.”

Bucs players seemed almost as eager to see Winston as he was to be back with teammates.

“Obviously, his enthusiasm, his charisma is very infectious,” receiver Chris Godwin said. “So just having him back, like I said, it’s great to have his energy back in the locker room.”

The Bucs had protection issues against the 3-4 defense of the Steelers, and you can bet the Bears will try to exploit them.

Bears defensive end Khalil Mack is a game-wrecker, and the Bucs will try to account for him on every play. But Fitzpatrick was hit 13 times and sacked three times against the Steelers.

Defensively, the Bucs should match up well against the Bears and quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who has struggled to throw the football down the field.

The Bucs recently beat the Eagles, who run the same offense as the Bears. That should be a plus this Sunday.

SERIES HISTORY: 59th regular-season meeting. Bears lead series, 38-20. The two former NFC Central rivals have met each of the past four years. Tampa Bay won last year’s game 29-7.