Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Commentary | Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith officially mum on starting quarterback

TAMPA

Lovie Smith likes to keep his plans close to the vest.

If you're not wearing pewter, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach will keep you in the dark for as long as he can.

But even the best poker players slip up, and on the first day of the Bucs' mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, Smith might have let the cat out of the bag.

Then again' maybe he wants you to think that.

Mike Glennon took most of the reps at quarterback with the first team' and for a good part of the day was throwing lasers. Jameis Winston, the top pick in this year's NFL draft, spent most of his time going against the second teamers and even those below.

When asked if this means Glennon is on the first-team depth chart, Smith responded "It's not just about Jameis. We need to get our backup quarterback ready, too. We are getting a lot of guys reps right now on the plan that we had as we set it up initially."

Some might take this to mean Jameis has won the job, but logic says otherwise. The Bucs were 2-14 last year after Smith spent a lot of the owners money on free-agent busts and he doesn't have that much cache anymore.

Smith also made the mistake of handing the quarterback job to Josh McCown last preseason and taking the competition out of the job. He further exacerbated that blunder by keeping McCown as his starter when the season was lost.

But things are different now, and the best

thing going for Smith is that Winston is all for the job being open to competition.

"I haven't earned it until I get it," Winston said when asked if he should be the starting quarterback. "I am just excited to play. Right now it doesn't matter. What matters is that this team gets better every single day and I learn every single day and I get the playbook down."

It's hard to judge players in minicamp, which Smith appropriately calls underwear football. Everybody is in shorts, and there is no contact, though former Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte broke the rules Tuesday taking down a few receivers after they caught the ball.

No one will ever deny Glennon throws a nice ball and is tall enough to see over just about any defensive player on the field. But when you are not under a rush, things can look better than they are.

Smith warns about getting too high or too low in evaluating quarterbacks or anyone else on the field when there is no contact.

"For a quarterback, you are not hitting. He knows that. He can hold the ball until whenever," Smith said. "You have to keep all of that in mind, but we are doing the same thing with others. How hard is it to evaluate linemen when you can't have any contact? I think there can be some separation in the group a little bit, and that's what you are looking for."

Smith bemoans the fact that the NFL doesn't allow the Bucs to spend as much time as they would like with the players, but he said Winston has everything he can to enhance his learning.

"He has come a long way in a short period of time. I am very impressed with the amount of knowledge he has now about our offense," Smith said. "Jameis is one of the last guys (to leave) each day. Again, I'll make the statement he is right on track."

The quarterback praised perennial All Pro Gerald McCoy for helping him make the transition to pro ball.

"It's good to have a big time guy like that to just take time out and try to mentor a guy like me. It means a lot. That's why I respect him so much," Winston said.

And what's the best piece of advice McCoy has given you?

"Lay low," Winston said.

Noteworthy

In the secondary, the Bucs started Alterraun Verner and Jonthan Banks at cornerback with Southeast and South Florida product Mike Jenkins, who missed nearly all of last season with an injury, running with the second unit with Sterling Moore at the other corner. ... Jenkins did a nice job covering receivers on the outside denying them space. Conte and Bradley McDougald started at safety and Leonard Johnson at nickel. Danny Lansanah continued to impress at strong side linebacker and intercepted a Glennon pass. Verner intercepted a Glennon pass, but Charles Smith ran the wrong route on the play.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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