TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has had a genuine soft spot for Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston dating well back to Winston's days in elementary school. That's when the two first met, when Winston attended one of Arians' youth football camps.
Sunday, the two will meet in Glendale at University of Phoenix Stadium when Winston and the Bucs take on Arians and his Cardinals.
Arians knew there was something special about Winston and the coach said he's kept his eyes on Winston ever since.
"Oh gosh, yes," he said. "Jaboo's been a legend since he was in the ninth grade. My son was in Birmingham at the time. So I've been hearing about him, knowing about him for a long time.
"Just a tremendous athlete. A very bright guy, but had a cannon for an arm. He was probably throwing 90 mile an hour fastballs back then in the ninth, 10th grade."
Arians' takeaway from what he's seen in Winston's development?
"A (heck) of an athlete, turned into a great quarterback," the coach said. "A good leader, really, really bright guy, a 4.0 student, extremely accurate. He's obviously making a really nice step. He made a great step as a rookie, but he's really making a nice step this year, with the way he played this last week."
Winston said it was the Arians' camp he attended several years ago as a youngster that inspired him to make it to the NFL and become a star. There was one special message he remembers from Arians, too, one that's stuck with him to this day.
"Absolutely," Winston said. "One thing I remember about Coach Arians is he's one of the first people that gave me the dream of getting a Super Bowl. At the camp he brought his Pittsburgh Steelers ring and showed all of us his ring, and that was one of the first times when I was just like, 'man, I want to get me one of those rings. I want to get me a Super Bowl ring.'"
NOTES: S Tyrann Mathieu played mostly deep in the secondary against the Patriots in Week 1. He rarely ventured elsewhere, which is typically the Honey Badger's game as he often will blitz or break things up on crossing routes underneath as well as playing against the deep ball. He's playing a new role, he said, until he's able to ease back into his old ways following a return from major knee surgery. "I don't necessarily like it," he said. "I'm still trying to get back in rhythm. It's a new challenge for me. I'm just trying to embrace it and accept it. I think it's more about me getting back healthy, getting comfortable. I think in the next couple weeks hopefully, I'm where I need to be and I can make that transition." ... DT Frostee Rucker remains out with a sprained left MCL and although he hasn't been ruled out officially, he won't play Sunday against visiting Tampa Bay. Taking his place will be Rodney Gunter, who is more athletic than Gunter but not nearly as experienced. ... WR J.J. Nelson missed practice Wednesday with a left shoulder injury. If he doesn't play Sunday against the Buccaneers, expect Jaron Brown to get more of a look in passing situations. ... WR Marquis Bundy was re-signed to the team's practice squad primarily so the 6-foot-4 player could help simulate the Buccaneers' tallish receivers, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, on scout team during practice. The Cardinals released 5-9 receiver Chris Hubert in a corresponding move. "Yeah, when we want a taller receiver," coach Bruce Arians said. "Chris (Hubert) did a heck of a job for us and we needed taller guys."