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Jameis Winston excited to support, encourage Deshaun Watson from backup role

Jameis Winston is more than ready for the role of support Dawg. He’s embraced the idea of backing up and propping up starting quarterback Deshaun Watson.

“I look forward to allowing him to lean on me for anything that he needs and also encouraging him and providing him with different resources that he probably hasn’t gotten from people that have been in the same room as him,” Winston said Wednesday during an introductory news conference.

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Winston (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) signed a one-year, $4 million contract that can reach $8.7 million with incentives. The deal was agreed to last week during the start of free agency, as the Browns chose Winston over Joe Flacco as the No. 2.

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Winston, 30, was the No. 1 overall pick of the Buccaneers in 2015 and has started 80 games in his career. While he still wants to be a starter, he’s committed to supporting Watson.

“I’m so excited to work with this young man and help him be what he is capable of being, and that’s being one of the best quarterbacks in this league,” Winston said. “One of the biggest things that I’m bringing to Deshaun is just really support and encouragement because he has achieved so much and that’s why he is this organization’s franchise quarterback.”

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The Browns picked Winston over Flacco, who won four straight starts in December to clinch a playoff berth, because he’s nine years younger and a good fit for the offense and quarterback room. The organization continues to try to create the best situation for Watson to succeed, and Winston echoed the comments of new coordinator Ken Dorsey.

“That’s the exciting part about working with him is getting him back to the elite level of who he is,” Dorsey said of Watson in February.

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Winston’s help will take many forms.

“That’s film studies, film tendencies, whether that’s cooperating with the receiver room, cooperating with the running backs, just serving him and his team,” Winston said. “I know it is not only a passion of mine to lead and to impact those around me, but I feel like it’s a privilege.”

Winston spent the last two years as the backup in New Orleans and became a free agent when the Saints cut him. He called the Browns a “great fit” because of the organization and the fan base.

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He said he met Watson in 2014 when his Florida State team faced Watson’s Clemson squad.

“I’ve always encouraged him, shot him Instagram messages every now and then about being proud of him and continuing to persevere,” Winston said. “The biggest thing about this relationship is not only is this going to be a credible relationship because me and him have both had a lot of success throughout our football career, but it’s going to be a relatable experience with us both being African-American quarterbacks out of the deep South. So I’ve experienced some of the certain things that he’s experienced throughout his career, which allows him to be able to depend on me or to lean on me to different specific avenues that he might want to pursue or any questions that he might have.”

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Winston went 28-42 as a starter in his five years with the Buccaneers, throwing 121 touchdowns and 88 interceptions. He wasn’t re-signed after leading the NFL with 626 pass attempts, 5,109 passing yards and 30 interceptions in 2019.

He didn’t start a game in 2020 with the Saints, then went 5-2 in 2021 before a torn anterior cruciate ligament ended his season. He went 1-2 in 2022 and didn’t start a game last year behind Derek Carr, throwing only 47 passes. For his career, he’s completed 61.2 percent for 22,104 yards, 141 touchdowns, 99 interceptions and an 87.0 passer rating while rushing for 1,214 yards and 11 TDs.

Winston’s learned to not only accept but cherish the role of backup.

“The most important thing is just the opportunity. The opportunity that we get as football players,” he said. “We’ve been playing this sport — me, myself — since I’ve been 4 years old. So the experiences that I’ve been able to accumulate, the experiences that have taught me things for anyone’s benefit, just the wisdom that I have attained. Knowing that I can impact anybody, anywhere despite the role that I may have.”

Winston says he’s a changed man from his younger days. He served a three-game suspension to start the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. He had been accused of groping an Uber driver in March 2016 and an NFL investigation determined Winston violated the conduct policy by “touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.”

Winston had previously called the accusation “false” but apologized in a statement after the suspension.

In 2016 he settled a federal lawsuit accusing him of sexual battery of a fellow Florida State student in 2012. Winston had called the encounter consensual, and no criminal charges were filed.

Watson’s alleged transgressions are also well known. He was suspended for the first 11 games of 2022 following more than two dozen accusations of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.

“The person that this organization is getting is first and foremost a man of God and faith who is about increase,” Winston said. “And in terms of changing over the course of the past few years, significantly, four years ago I got married to the love of my life, my high school sweetheart. So not just being a man of God, but a husband and a father of two kids. So priorities change when you see and know that things are bigger than you.”

He became a locker room favorite in New Orleans and credited being genuine, optimistic and consistent.

“I’m focused on how we can get better and how we can get better together,” he said. “So I’m always looking for ways to enhance those around me because I know that that is what a leader encompasses.”

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Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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