Winston had a shaky 2-2 start before he sustained a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder in Week 5 at Arizona.
Although Winston played on, he wasn't very good, save for one half at Buffalo. He wasn't terrible. But he couldn't make the throws he normally makes and he got worse with each hit to his shoulder.
The Bucs went 0-4. Winston led his team to all of nine points -- combined -- in the first half of those games.
Finally, doctors shut him down, but being forced to stand and watch may have been the best medicine for Winston.
"Is that a possibility? Of course," head coach Dirk Koetter said. "Have guys ever gotten better by watching? Yes, they have. I've seen it happen. In Jameis' case, it's uncharted territory because he's never watched. His whole life. We'll see if and when that does come about."
Winston will start Sunday at Green Bay after missing three games.
Every player has to be themselves, but Winston could do with a little less excitement and more execution.
Winston had 10 touchdown passes, six interceptions and lost two fumbles when he was playing. In the past three games, backup Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdown passes and only one interception while not losing a fumble. He has seven touchdowns and three picks on the year.
Some are questioning whether Winston should play at all. At 4-7, the Bucs are not going to make the playoffs. But make no mistakes, jobs are on the line. The coaching staff needs to win some games. Winston needs to re-establish himself as the franchise quarterback Tampa Bay expected him to be when they took him No. 1 overall in the 2015 draft.
He also is being investigated by the NFL on allegations that he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in March of 2016. There is always a chance he could be suspended for a few games to start 2018, so that makes these games so critical.
Winston's timing could be better. On the day that he returned to practice, the Bucs placed center Ali Marpet and tackle Demar Dotson on injured reserve. Both suffered knee injuries in the 34-20 loss at Atlanta Sunday.
To make matters worse, the Bucs have four players in concussion protocol, including running back Doug Martin.
The Packers, of course, still are in the hunt despite going 1-4 since quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. Backup Brent Hundley is coming off his best game in a loss at Pittsburgh, passing for 245 yards and three touchdowns.
"The timing is just not quite what it is with Aaron," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. "So we've just got to keep working and try to get through those specifics. But you've got to stay creative too as a staff because we got to make sure we're challenging Tampa Bay's defense."
SERIES HISTORY: 54th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 31-21-1. Since division realignment in 2002, the Bucs own a 4-3 series lead but only one of those wins came at Lambeau Field. In 1997, the Packers beat the Bucs 21-7 in the NFC Divisional playoff game.
--The constant in the Bucs' poor performance on defense is their inability to sack the quarterback. Tampa Bay has only 15 sacks this season as a team. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy leads the Bucs with five and no other player has more than two.
"The most important thing that you have to be able to do, I believe, first and foremost in any game of football is you've got to win the line of scrimmage," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. "By winning the line of scrimmage, you've got to win on first and second down and then that allows you to be in those situations where you can rush the passer on third down. When you get that opportunity to rush the passer, you have to be able to have consistent pass rush. Quarterbacks are too good. This guy that we played last week, Matt (Ryan), is (the) reigning MVP. You give him time (and) he's going to have an answer and he is going to be able to get the ball to an open receiver. You can't cover forever."
--Tight end Luke Stocker, whose seven-year run with the Bucs was the third longest on the current roster, was waived Tuesday as the team takes a look at younger players in the final five games of the season.
Stocker, 29, had been inactive the last two games and had only three catches for 18 yards and a touchdown this season. The Bucs also waived veteran defensive end Darryl Tapp, promoting rookie defensive end Pat O'Connor and second-year tight end Alan Cross from the practice squad to take their place on the roster.
Among the current Bucs, only tackle Demar Dotson (2009) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (2010) have been with Tampa Bay longer than Stocker, a fourth-round pick out of Tennessee in 2011. He finishes his Bucs tenure with 52 catches for 400 yards and three touchdowns. He played for four head coaches in his seven seasons -- Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter.
--Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is looking forward to playing a rare game at Lambeau Field, but he is disappointed his team will not be facing quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"Something happens. Either I'm injured or now he's injured," McCoy said. "I was really looking forward to getting to play against him, but I'm a historian and the Packers are just one of those teams. When you say the Packers, it's like, 'Man, this is the Green Bay Packers. It's Lambeau Field.' I'm so excited. I was a fan of the NFL before I became a player in the NFL, so this was one of those ones where I am really excited as a fan to just go see it and be a part of it. It's something I'll always remember."
--With the season-ending knee injuries to C Ali Marpet and T Demar Dotson, the Bucs will have to make some changes on the offensive line. Joe Hawley, who started at center for the Bucs the previous two years, will take Marpet's spot. Caleb Benenoch would be the top candidate to take over from Dotson at right tackle. The Bucs could move LG Kevin Pamphile to right tackle, but G Evan Smith, who would replace Pamphile, still is in concussion protocol.
NOTES: S T.J. Ward is in concussion protocol after suffering the injury Sunday at Atlanta. It's unlikely he will play Sunday at Green Bay. ... RB Doug Martin did not practice Wednesday and is in concussion protocol after suffering the injury in the first half of Sunday's game at Atlanta. ... DT Gerald McCoy has a shoulder injury but had full participation in practice Wednesday. ... WR DeSean Jackson has a foot injury and did not practice Wednesday. ... CB Vernon Hargreaves has a hamstring injury that has forced him to miss the past two games and did not practice on Wednesday. ... C/G Evan Smith has a concussion but had full participation in practice Wednesday. ... DT Clinton McDonald has a back injury and did not practice Wednesday.