Jameis Winston dealing with back and ankle injuries; should Saints rest him in Week 3?

·4 min read

Look, this isn’t the conversation we want to be having about Jameis Winston. It isn’t his fault that he’s getting banged up. But the New Orleans Saints starting quarterback was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday’s injury report, and with a new designation — in addition to the previously-reported back issue (4 of his 33 vertebrae are fractured, which our own Maddy Hudak examined further here), he’s now listed with an ankle injury, too. Whether or not that is connected to the foot sprain that cost him time in training camp is unclear.

So is it time to put him on ice? It’s at least a conversation worth starting. If Winston’s functionality is limited by these injuries, and it sure looked like the case with so many off-target throws and hesitant movements last week, the Saints aren’t doing him any favors in continuing to play him. Many players all across the NFL are dealing with injuries, some minor, others major; but it’s a long season with 15 games left to play, and it’s irresponsible at best to keep trotting Winston out there when his body is in such disrepair. It gets to a point where the risks (further injury, life-long ailments, and, you know, more poor performances and lost games) outweigh the rewards (winning games). Just don’t expect Winston to go to the bench willingly. He’s not going to take himself out of action any time soon.

One of the first lessons Drew Brees learned in the NFL came from his old mentor Doug Flutie (it’s also one of the first anecdotes Brees shares in his autobiography), when they were teammates with the Chargers. Flutie cautioned Brees against ever leaving the field — famously saying that as soon as coaches saw someone else playing well in his spot, Brees wouldn’t get it back. It was a lesson that Brees took to heart, and very likely shared with Winston when he mentored the younger quarterback at the end of his career.

Regardless of what Brees may or may not have taught him, Winston isn’t going to take himself out of a game. He isn’t wired that way. If he can physically stand and throw a football, he’s going to be out there. There’s a lot to be said for gritting through the pain and going to work. But if it gets to a point where his performance is suffering and he’s hurting the team, Dennis Allen and his coaching staff need to step in and make the decision for him. Allen hasn’t indicated a change is coming under center. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth considering.

This is exactly what they signed Andy Dalton for, as a better-experienced, better-qualified, and flat-out-better backup than Trevor Siemian. They knew there would be a possibility of Winston missing time with injuries this season, either due to last year’s season-ending knee issue or something else. Winston missed time in training camp with a foot sprain. Now he’s dealing with four fractured vertebrae in his lower back and a sudden ankle injury. He’s been a limited participant in practice. With Winston on the mend, isn’t this the exact situation they brought in Dalton to address? What did they invest in new trainers and a widely-respected sports science director for if not to better address injuries like the ones Winston is dealing with?

As we discussed after Winston’s rough outing against his old team last Sunday, part of Allen’s responsibilities as head coach is protecting Winston from himself. He’s got to examine all the information in front of him, taking input from Winston’s position coaches and the team medical staff, and make the call. It’s a tough decision. If Dalton goes out there and performs better in four quarters than Winston has in eight, does he undermine his starter and ride a hot hand?

Maybe. It’s just as likely Dalton struggles, too. Either way, Allen is handsomely compensated for making tough decisions like this. It’s not about making one player happy or appeasing fanboys on Twitter. They’ve got to field the most competitive team possible. That’s the reality here. Whether or not Allen makes a change at quarterback is anyone’s guess. He’s got two more days of practice to evaluate Winston’s progress, listen to those better-informed than him, and then decide if a change is necessary.

It’s unfortunate for Winston that we’re even having this conversation, but it is what it is. Injuries like this aren’t something he can control. We’ll keep an eye out for any changes in the days ahead, but at this stage all we can do is look at the situation with an unbiased eye and consider the limited information available to us. The only certainty is that Allen has more access to more data than anyone reading this. We’ll just have to see what he does with it, if anything.

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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire