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Jameis Winston might not be Bucs' starter when he returns

The Buccaneers still believe that quarterback Jameis Winston is huge part of their future. When he played in training camp, even throwing to second-stringers, he was their best option behind center.

That said, sources say the Bucs might hold off installing Winston as the starter when he returns from suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy in Week 4. With a short week after playing on Monday night in Week 3, Ryan Fitzpatrick could remain the starter for at least another week.

Both Winston and Tampa Bay are committed to doing what's in the best interest of the team. If that means riding the hot hand, that will be OK. Winston has told the team as much, while also noting that he expected Fitz to play well.

This all comes on the heels of Fitzpatrick winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for dropping 48 points on the Saints by tossing for 417 yards with four touchdowns and no picks.

Of course, there are several factors at play. It's clear the Bucs weapons -- including up-and-coming receiver Chris Godwin to go with stars Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, among others -- will help Winston, as well. And new play-caller Todd Monken impressed, too.

Fitz does have it working, which might give the Bucs a luxury. They can have him start as long as he's firing on all cylinders. That might give Winston time to work himself back into the flow, ready to step in if Fitzpatrick falters.

One thing that won't factor into play is Winston's $20.9 million fifth-year option for 2019 that is guaranteed for injury, sources say. This won't be like it was for the Redskins and Robert Griffin III, when they kept him on the shelf to avoid injury and get out from under the salary. Winston is expected to return to the lineup.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht made some headlines earlier in the offseason by saying there wasn't a guarantee Winston would get his job back immediately. The reality is, throughout his career, Fitzpatrick has often flashed, then reverted back.

Fitzpatrick playing well is a good problem to have. And if he falters -- whether in week 4 or 7 -- Winston will be ready.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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