Fall 2022

Saints QB Jameis Winston grateful to God after long-awaited return from ACL injury

During the New Orleans Saints’ final preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Friday night, quarterback Jameis Winston saw his first game action since his season-ending left ACL tear in Week 8 last season.

He showed no signs of rust. Winston completed all four of his pass attempts for 59 yards as he led the Saints down the field on the game’s opening drive, ultimately culminating in a one-yard touchdown plunge by Mark Ingram. New Orleans would go on to win, 27-10.

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“I wanted to get Jameis out there in some game action,” new Saints head coach Dennis Allen said after the game of Winston’s brief debut. “It’s been a while since he’s been in that environment.”

Allen continued later, “I thought he was confident in the pocket. I thought he was decisive with his reads. There were a couple of plays where he really stepped up in there and rifled the ball in, so I was impressed with what he was able to do. It was good to see.”

Winston’s long-awaited return to the Saints lineup was delayed further this preseason, as he had been hampered by a foot injury and missed the first two preseason games, both losses. After finally suiting up for the first time in roughly 10 months, Winston didn’t hide how much his single offensive series meant to him.

“I just kept telling the Lord, ‘Thank You! Thank You for allowing me this opportunity to be back on the field in front of these fans in the same place where I was carried off,'” Winston said in his postgame press conference. “… My gratitude for being out there is way more important than completing passes. I had a season where I didn’t finish, so I’m thankful. That means a lot more to me than completions.”

Winston also said he knows he’s been blessed with an ability to play in the NFL, and any opportunity he has to step on the field is a gracious gift from God. Yet when he joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast in April 2019, he said he doesn’t define himself first and foremost as a football player.

“I’ve been through ups and downs, but one thing about me is I always knew that my identity wasn’t in football, that it wasn’t in baseball (which he also played in college at Florida State),” he said. “I knew that my identity always has been in Christ.”

Winston, who says God is first in his Instagram bio, references the Bible verse Philippians 4:13 in his Twitter bio as well. He also explained on the podcast what motivates him to perform on the field.

“All the glitz and glamour, all that, it didn’t really matter because I’m not doing this for [humans],” he said. “I’m doing it for God. I’m doing it for God’s pleasure. I’m not doing it for man’s pleasure or for my own fame. So I had to understand that, and once I made that commitment (to live a life of faith) in November 2014, I knew that was just the beginning.”

 

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Winston’s NFL career began in 2015 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the first overall pick. He had won a national championship and the Heisman Trophy in college at Florida State in 2013, and he was named to the 2015 Pro Bowl. Yet a few seasons of uneven performances, including his last season with the Bucs in 2019 in which he threw 30 interceptions, left his future as an NFL starting quarterback in doubt.

He joined the Saints in 2020, where he served as Drew Brees‘ backup for one season before getting the nod as the starter in 2021. Winston had already tossed 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions through his first seven games, but his ACL tear brought an abrupt end to what seemed to be a career renaissance.

Winston hopes he can regain the form he had before the injury, and if Friday night was any indication, he may be well on his way to doing just that. Winston’s first regular-season test will come on Sunday, Sept. 11, as the Saints go on the road to face the Atlanta Falcons at 1 p.m. ET.

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