Koetter discussed replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick in team meeting

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston returns today from his suspension. His status as a backup has mostly remained quiet. But inside a team meeting on Wednesday, the first day of Winston's return, coach Dirk Koetter spoke loudly and clearly about his quarterback situation.

According to several sources, Koetter told his team that after Ryan Fitzpatrick's third interception against the Steelers, Koetter nearly replaced him with backup Ryan Griffin. The coach told his team he was one or two plays away -- down 23-7 in the second quarter Monday night -- from giving the highly thought-of reserve Griffin his first opportunity to take the field in an NFL game.

The disclosure caught players by surprise, making some believe Fitzpatrick's starting job is anything but safe. The Bucs say Koetter did not use the word "bench" in his speech to the players and that it was never about pulling Fitzpatrick for performance. It was about the possibility of giving a player who had impressed in practice the chance to do it in a game.

Griffin is considered an up-and-coming player and having a backup play down three scores in the second quarter would have been rare but not earth-shattering. The Bucs said Koetter's overall point was that the team has three very good quarterbacks and whoever plays, the team would be able to have success. Koetter has confidence in all three, was his point.

During his news conference, Winston seemed to indicated he was fine taking on whatever role, which likely would begin as a backup: "It's about the team's success. I'm not a selfish player. It's about the team. We're out here doing big things and we have to continue doing it."

That this all came on the day Winston was back after violating the NFL personal conduct policy, just a week after Fitzpatrick earned back-to-back NFC Offensive Player of the Week awards, left players contemplating how to take Koetter's speech.

Some in the room thought Koetter was paving the way for Winston to return to the lineup, perhaps as early as Week 6 after the bye. One source said it caught everyone's attention, but no one took it for more than it was. Another simply said he never expected to hear that.

Fitzpatrick is off to the best start of his career with a passer rating of 124.8, 1,230 passing yards in three games with 11 TDs and four interceptions. But the question of whether Winston, a former No. 1 overall pick, will take over again remains to be seen.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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