When you have a valuable commodity, the most prudent thing is to use the utmost care in preserving its qualities.
The Tampa Bay Bucs must have forgotten that golden rule in their preseason opener at Minnesota last Saturday night.
Pairing Garrett Gilkey at center with Jameis Winston at quarterback is a recipe for disaster.
As a center, Gilkey is the guy who can't shoot straight.
On snaps that actually make it to the quarterback, Gilkey hits the mark about 50 percent of the time -- which would be good if he was teaching Shaquille O'Neal how to shoot free throws. Though he was only in for a short time against Minnesota, Gilkey had two errant snaps including one that sailed by Winston.
It could've gotten the rookie quarterback mauled as he tried to corral the ball, and Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith would've had a lot of explaining to do if Winston was injured.
As the first pick in this year's NFL draft, Winston is the budding face of the Bucs' beleaguered franchise. He needs to get in his work, but putting him under center behind a novice such as Gilkey is like trying to stop a mack truck with a handkerchief.
Smith said his backup center was hurt. If that was truly the case, then Smith should've pulled Winston out of the game
Gilkey was a laughingstock last year with his errant snaps. Winston is the hope of the franchise. You want to give him reps, but not when it puts his health in jeopardy.
Growing into an NFL quarterback is a process that will take years -- as Smith has correctly reminded us many times -- so if Winston misses 10 snaps in a pre-season opener, it's not going to inhibit his growth.
And at least he emerges from the game with his limbs intact.
You wonder what Smith was thinking by throwing Winston to the Gilkey-lions. You also have to wonder what Smith was thinking by keeping Demar Dotson in for the entire first half.
Dotson is Tampa Bay's best offensive lineman. He hurt his knee on the next to last play of the first half and it's fair to ask why he was on the field so long in an exhibition opener.
Smith said he needed Dotson in there to protect Winston. But at the same time, he exposed Winston to the wolves with the Gilkey decision.
Don't think the team's owners, the Glazer brothers, aren't wondering the same thing.
So now the Bucs are down their best offensive linemen on a corps that was the consensus-worst in the league last year.
The Bucs signed 31 year-old Gosder Cherilus on Tuesday, and figure to plug him into Dotson's spot. The 2008 first round draft pick struggled with knee injuries last year for the Indianapolis Colts, who released him before training camp started.
"We did a lot of research on him. It's good that a player like that is available," Smith said.
Now the Bucs are hoping rookie Donovan Smith can get the job done at left tackle, the important position that protects Winston's blind side, and that rookie Ali Marpet is the answer at right guard.
Smith and Kevin Pamphile are competing for the left tackle spot. Patrick Omameh and second year guys Edawn Coughman and Reid Fragel, names that don't stir the adrenalin, are also in play for the spot.
While everyone seems so concerned about critiquing Winston's first NFL appearance, they should be more worried about the bodies in front of him who are paid to protect the future franchise quarterback.