Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — There may be polarizing opinions about his play, but nobody doubts the toughness of Jameis Winston.
The Bucs quarterback has played through various injuries during his career, missing only three games in 2017 with a sprained AC joint in his right throwing shoulder.
After visiting a hand specialist Monday to examine a hairline fracture in his right thumb, Winston is expected to start Sunday’s game at Detroit.
Although the Bucs aren’t sure when Winston suffered broke his thumb in the Bucs 38-35 win over the Colts Sunday, he had trouble gripping the ball after halftime and missed one offensive series before returning to the game.
Winston passed for a career-high 456 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for a score.
But Arians said that Winston had additional swelling and soreness in his thumb Monday and the Bucs wanted to make sure he’s not risking a longer-term injury by continuing to play.
“He’s going to have a second opinion,’’ Arians said early Monday. “It’s swollen and sore. But you know, we’ve got to get a hand specialist involved to see the long-term future.’’
By Monday afternoon, the Bucs learned that Winston is cleared to play, although the injury may limit his practice time during the week.
Arians said the Bucs don’t know exactly when the injury occurred Sunday.
“He shook everybody’s hand and he shook mine and I said and it was like, let’s go,’’ Arians said. “Next thing I know he’s getting an x-ray.’’
Ryan Griffin is the only other quarterback on the Bucs’ 53-man roster. He had not taken a regular-season snap in nearly seven NFL seasons until he started the second half for Winston and went 2-of-4 passing for 18 yards while leading the Bucs to only one first down.
“It was cool,’’ Griffin said of playing in his first regular-season NFL game. “It felt normal. It felt like it’s always felt. I would’ve liked to have gone out and scored but glad it’s behind me.’’
The Bucs also lost receiver Mike Evans, who suffered a pulled right hamstring catching a 61-yard touchdown pass from Winston. Left tackle Donovan Smith, who finished Sunday’s game, has an ankle and knee injury and is undergoing further testing.
Winston already has re-set his franchise single-season passing mark with 4,115 passing yards with three games to go. He is on pace for 5,065 passing yards, which would be the sixth-highest all-time.
But Winston also leads the NFL with 23 interceptions, the most of his career. In fact, he has a chance to lead the NFL in both interceptions and touchdown passes in the same season. Winston has 26 TD passes, two behind the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, who leads the league with 28.
Arians said he also rides the emotional roller coaster with Winston.
“You go with the highs and you go with the lows,’’ Arians said. “There was a stretch when it was like, “he’s afraid to throw it now.’ Slap him in the face and throw the damn thing. Don’t hold it.’’