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Jameis Winston injury, Mike Evans suspension add to Buccaneers’ woes

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston watches from the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston watches from the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)
By Fred Goodall Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. – A five-game losing streak isn’t the only source of frustration for the reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The team’s woes intensified Monday, when quarterback Jameis Winston learned he will be shut down for at least two weeks in hopes his injured throwing shoulder improves. Star receiver Mike Evans was suspended one game by the NFL for his role in a sideline skirmish.

Winston’s streak of 40 consecutive starts to begin his pro career will end Sunday, when Ryan Fitzpatrick replaces him against the New York Jets, Fitzpatrick’s team the last two seasons.

Evans will miss this week’s game, too, for violating league rules regarding unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness during a 30-10 loss at New Orleans – an incident the receiver escalated after Winston initiated a confrontation with Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

“Totally unacceptable behavior, first by Jameis and then by Mike,” Koetter said, reflecting on Evans running up from behind and knocking Lattimore to the ground after the Saints rookie pushed Winston in response to the quarterback coming off the sideline to confront Lattimore.

Winston was not in the game at the time because of his sore shoulder.

“Jameis cannot, under any circumstances come off the sideline when he’s not even playing in the game,” Koetter added. “Trash talking is trash talking. But to go out and tap another player – whatever you want to call that, touch another player at all on the field – that’s inexcusable.”

Koetter spoke about the incident during his weekly news conference, before the NFL announced Evans’ suspension.

The receiver said after the game Sunday he was taking up for his quarterback, but acknowledged that he had let his emotions get the best of him.

“That’s not having your teammate’s back. That’s just wrong,” Koetter agreed.

“If I had known what I know now, Mike probably should have been ejected, and maybe Jameis should have been ejected,” Koetter said.

The coach said he didn’t see the incident as it was developing and that none of the game officials did, either.

When Koetter asked why a penalty was called on Evans, the coach said the official who threw the flag explained “they told us from upstairs that 13 started the whole thing.”

“I talked to the entire team about that today, and that cannot happen,” Koetter said. “That’s totally unacceptable.”

Winston sat out the second half against the Saints after being sacked late in the second quarter and landing on the shoulder he initially hurt at Arizona on Oct. 15.

“He’s going to be out for the next couple of weeks,” Koetter said, adding the Bucs also plan to activate third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin, who’s on injured reserve but eligible to return this week.

Winston, who’s thrown for 1,920 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, has played through the injury, originally diagnosed as an AC joint sprain, the past three games.

Koetter said an MRI performed Monday showed “a lot of medical terms that I’m not an expert on, but that he needs to be off for a couple of weeks.”

“Of course Jameis is a tremendous competitor, and he would try to play through anything,” Koetter said.

The Bucs, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, have lost five straight to fall into last place in the NFC South. Koetter was asked to describe the mood of the team, which began the season expecting to contend for the division title.

“Frustrated, disappointed, confused,” the coach said. “The mood you would expect from a team that had very high expectations and has lost five in a row.”

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