When it comes to reported tumult in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers' company line remains "nothing to see here."
"We have the same goal every single week and that's to go out there and win," Winston explained. "I wouldn't use friction as a term. I believe when you're communicating with any player, you're going to have some disagreements. But at the end of the day, once we come to a solid agreement and we're out there to win football games, it doesn't really matter."
Rapoport reported last Sunday that issues between Winston and Koetter stemmed from Winston not feeling like he was supported properly while playing through an injury early in the season and the QB's irritation over Tampa's struggles to score. Winston clarified Friday that his shoulder injury won't require offseason surgery, just "rest and recovery."
When the reported rift surfaced, Winston called any talk of issues with Koetter "water under the bridge" and "a distraction." The team's reaction to the report indictates the news has become the latter.
"No one has [Winston's] back more than Dirk Koetter," offensive coordinator Todd Monken passionately assured reporters Friday. "Nobody. Nobody in this building. I promise you."
Monken elaborated: "From a coach-player relationship, I have never seen anything close to what's being talked about between our head coach and our quarterback. Not one thing. What I want people to understand is this. The majority of players that I've ever coached in my life at some point in our relationship, it has been strained. Fact.
"All of a sudden it becomes news that all of a sudden there's a strain? You know what the strain is? The frustration of being 4-9. That's a frustration. When you put everything into it, what you've got is a quarterback that's very competitive, a guy that wants to be great and has had a frustrating year, probably some things on and off the field, and a head coach that does an unbelievable job coaching our players and quarterback. And that becomes news? Holy cow! News flash! We've got a strain in our relationship. There's not one person that can't say that's ever happened before. That is a flat-out joke that that even becomes news."
Through Hard Knocks and now hard times, the Bucs have underwhelmed, calling into question how the organization should act this offseason and which roles needs addressing. Despite the swirling winds of rumor and change on the horizon, Winston insists he and his team will stay singularly focused.
"Attacking the relationship of a head coach and a quarterback is definitely a way to get this locker room in a panic," Winston said, "but we don't condone that at all. Every one of our players stand behind Coach Koetter."