Winston limited, Bucs prepare Fitzpatrick to face Bills

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz. With Jameis Winston's status uncertain because of an injured throwing shoulder, the Buccaneers begin preparation for the Buffalo Bills with Fitzpatrick at quarterback.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, FIle)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t saying much about injured quarterback Jameis Winston’s status for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.

As expected, the third-year pro did not throw in practice Wednesday because of a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.

Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick worked with the first-team offense in preparation for the Bills (3-2), who have the NFL’s stingiest scoring defense.

”He’s limited,” coach Dirk Koetter said of Winston, who was injured less than six minutes into last Sunday’s 38-33 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

The Bucs said the following day that a MRI found no structural damage and that Winston, who’s made 37 consecutive starts to begin his career since entering the NFL as the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, is considered day-to-day.

The Bucs have not signed a third quarterback, however Koetter declined to say whether that’s a sign that if Fitzpatrick starts this weekend that Winston might be available as a backup against the Bills.

”I’ll let you guys draw your own conclusions on that,” Koetter said, adding he has confidence in Fitzpatrick, one of four players in league history to throw touchdowns passes with seven different teams, if Winston doesn’t play.

”Ryan’s always extremely well prepared. To put it in perspective, Jameis has 37 starts. Ryan has 116,” the coach said. ”So, Ryan got all the passing reps today, and that’s about 35 more than he’s gotten since the season started, with the first offense. He’s a pro. He knows how to prepare. He showed that last week.”

Winston was injured on Tampa Bay’s opening drive. He returned for two more series before being replaced by Fitzpatrick, who had limited success moving the ball until after the Bucs (2-3) fell behind 31-0 in the third quarter.

The 34-year-old backup, who played with the Bills for four seasons from 2009 to 2012, finished 22 of 32 passing for 290 yards, three TDs and two interceptions.

Along the way, he joined Vinny Testaverde, Chris Chandler and Gus Frerotte as the only quarterbacks to throw TD passes for seven different franchises.

”Fitz is a smart quarterback,” receiver Mike Evans said. ”He has really good ball placement. He puts it in areas that only we can catch it. He gives us a chance to win.”

Fitzpatrick started 27 games over the past two seasons with the New York Jets. He signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent last spring, knowing he would be a backup to Winston, who topped 4,000 yards passing in each of his first two seasons.

”That’s the role I’m in, it’s a role I’ve been in before. I just try to go out there and do the best I can,” Fitzpatrick said before practice Wednesday.

”When I signed on here, (I knew) this is Jameis’ team,” Fitzpatrick added. ”To me, the biggest thing is when I’m out there, I don’t want to let him down because I know how much it means to him, and I know how much being out there means to him.”

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