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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers insist they don’t have a quarterback controversy.

Jameis Winston practiced Wednesday for the first time since serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, returning to a team that’s ridden Ryan Fitzpatrick’s arm to a surprising 2-1 start.

“I’m excited to be back,” a beaming Winston said. “I’m so happy we had some success. … We’ve got to keep it up.”

Fitzpatrick, a 35-year-old journeyman who’s played for seven teams over 14 seasons, has thrown for 1,230 yards and 11 touchdowns while becoming the first player in league history to top 400 yards passing in three consecutive games.

“When a guy throws for 400 yards three games in a row, you gotta love that,” Winston said, adding that he’s happy for Fitzpatrick, as well as proud of the entire team for how it performed in his absence.

“Me being back, nothing’s changing. I’m happy that when we have a win, I can dap guys up and celebrate with them,” he added. “That’s the part you miss, that team bonding.”

Winston was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft and started 45 of 48 games the past three seasons.

Coach Dirk Koetter remained mum on who will start Sunday’s game at Chicago.

He has informed both Winston and Fitzpatrick, but has no intentions of letting the Bears know what’s planned.

Winston took a stab at diffusing the conversation before retreating.

“I’m here to assist the best way I possibly can,” the fourth-year pro when asked what his reaction be to not being the starter against the Bears. “My passion for this team, my love for this team goes beyond whether I’m out there throwing the football for this team or not.”

Without hesitation, he quickly added: “It’s my first day back. Let me enjoy that before I (answer) any more questions about that.”

Fitzpatrick is expected to meet with the media on Thursday.

“It’s about the team’s success. I’m not a selfish player, it’s about our team,” Winston said. “We’re out here doing big things, and we’ve got to continue doing that.”

The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner practiced with the Bucs for the first time since the preseason. He was forbidden to be at the team’s training facility or have contact with coaches of teammates during the suspension.

Tuesday was the first day Winston was allowed to get back to work. He arrived at the complex at about 5:30 a.m., even though it was an off day for teammates following Monday night’s 30-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Winston recruited a couple of coaches and more than 20 players, including former NFL receiver Louis Murphy, to join him for workouts designed to help the quarterback remain sharp and in condition during the layoff.

“I did my best impersonation of what it would be like being here,” Winston said. “I got guys from the Orlando area, Fort Lauderdale, Lakeland. … We just went to work. I didn’t want the guys in this building to be working hard and I wasn’t out there doing my thing.”

Teammates were excited to have Winston back in the locker room and on the practice field. They insist they won’t take sides in the quarterback situation, stressing that they’re confident they can with Winston or Fitzpatrick.

“Jameis handled it like a pro. What else would you expect?” Koetter said.

“He came back prepared. That’s no surprise,” Koetter added. “It was great to have him back. Jameis is a favourite of everyone around here, so great to have his energy back in the building, his smile back in the building. I know he’s happy to be here. We’re happy to have him.”

___

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CLEVELAND — The beer-fueled bash spilled into the streets around FirstEnergy Stadium as delirious Browns fans walked — some staggered — while chanting for their new hero, the streak buster.

“Ba-ker May-field,” they screamed.

They’ve named their new starting quarterback. Coach Hue Jackson isn’t quite there yet.

Jackson said he isn’t ready to “officially” identify his starter for next week’s game in Oakland, but all signs point to Mayfield taking over in Cleveland following his dazzling NFL debut on Thursday night.

The No. 1 pick in this year’s draft replaced concussed starter Tyrod Taylor late in the first half and led the Browns (1-1-1) on four scoring drives as they erased a two-touchdown deficit to beat the New York Jets 21-17 and end Cleveland’s 19-game winless streak — the NFL’s second longest since 1970.

Jackson seems to only be delaying the inevitable: Mayfield’s the guy.

And if Jackson doesn’t’ pick the celebrated and uber-confident rookie, he won’t have to jump in Lake Erie again. Browns fans will throw him in. This one’s a no-brainer.

Jackson, who gave his players the weekend off, wants to watch more tape and speak with his staff and general manager John Dorsey before making a decision that Mayfield has already made for him.

Although Jackson wouldn’t publicly say Mayfield is his new starter, he gave strong indication he’s leaning that way by telling reporters on a conference call, “I think that you guys all feel good about where things are headed.”

It’s Baker time.

Out of respect for Taylor, who is in concussion protocol with his third head injury in 13 months, Jackson wants to tell his two quarterbacks his decision in person on Monday before sharing it with the world.

Cleveland’s plan was to bring Mayfield along slowly and groom him under Taylor, who guided Buffalo to the playoffs last season. But Taylor’s injury along with his struggles in three starts has altered the Browns’ strategy.

Taylor has completed 41 of 84 passes for 462 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, adding 125 yards rushing on 16 carries.

But even before he was knocked from Thursday’s game, Cleveland’s offence was going nowhere as Taylor was 4 of 14 for 19 yards and was sacked three times. Jackson sidestepped addressing whether he was going to pull Taylor at halftime, but it had to be running through his mind because anyone watching the game was thinking the same thing.

Mayfield’s first regular-season game as a pro couldn’t have gone much better. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards and was sacked once in just a little more than one half. His stats could have been more impressive if not for a drop by sure-handed receiver Jarvis Landry, and rookie Antonio Callaway letting a long throw down the sideline slip through his hands.

“He made some tremendous throws,” Jackson said. “Obviously, he was able to move the team. Played with some rhythm. Got the ball into the playmakers’ hands and gave them chances to make plays. There are some things that he has to clean up, obviously. We can’t have the ball out on the ground. There are some progression things that we will work through.

“Overall for his first game out under the lights in that environment in that situation, he handled all of that extremely well and played well.”

Most impressively, Mayfield did it on a short work week and without taking any snaps in practice with Cleveland’s first-team offence. In fact, the 2-point conversion try he caught in the third quarter came on the first time he had ever run the play.

But just as he did while winning the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, Mayfield elevated everyone around him, and in turn electrified 60,000 fans and a national TV audience.

Mayfield took it all in stride, displaying humility that some wondered if he had after some questionable on-field antics while he starred for the Sooners. This game ranked with any of his wins.

“This one is definitely up there, being the first NFL game that I have played in,” he said. “First regular-season one that actually counts. It is definitely up there for me. I have had some great memories, but I am just getting started.”

NOTES: Other than Taylor, LB James Burgess (knee) was the only other notable injury against the Jets. Burgess started for LB Christian Kirksey, who missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. … Jackson said he’s not worried about giving his players so much freedom over the weekend. “We can’t follow them around. We can’t baby them,” he said. “At the same time, we know who the guys are who we have to have an idea of where they are and what they have been doing. They have been good about letting us know, and we will definitely stay in contact with the majority of the guys.”

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EAGAN, Minn. — With his first real game for the Minnesota Vikings in the books , Kirk Cousins has another initiation coming this weekend: a visit to Lambeau Field.

Cousins and the Vikings play in Green Bay on Sunday, an earlier than usual contest for control of the NFC North. The only other times since 2000 that the Vikings have faced the Packers on the road in September were the season openers in 2003 and 2008.

For Cousins, well, talk about diving right in.

“It’s a great opportunity to join this rivalry and hopefully put my best foot forward and get off to a great start,” said Cousins, who grew up in the Chicago area and then western Michigan and, thus, has been immersed in one of the NFL’s most storied divisions his whole life as a football follower.

This will be his first playing experience at Green Bay, too. When Washington travelled there in 2013, he was the backup to Robert Griffin III. Now he’ll be the fifth Vikings quarterback to start in the last five visits to Lambeau Field.

“You realize how important it is for this organization, for our fans,” Cousins said Wednesday.

Cousins passed for 244 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover in a smooth Minnesota debut, a 24-16 victory over San Francisco. The downside? All seven of his pass attempts in the fourth quarter, including one throwaway on the final play, were incomplete. That’s uncharacteristic for a quarterback who’s had a strong track record of success late in games, since he became a full-time starter in 2015. He directed two fourth-quarter comeback victories that year, four in 2016 and one in 2017.

“Some quarterbacks have a reputation of doing them,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Some quarterbacks make it so that they don’t really have to do it in the fourth quarter, too. A lot of times it’s opportunities. A lot of times it’s the team around you. There are so many variables.”

All eyes will be on Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, whose status for Sunday will be a mystery until pregame warmups . So Cousins could fly a little lower on the radar for this one than his normal front-and-centre situation after signing his $84 million, fully guaranteed contract with the Vikings this year. The circumstances were different, but Cousins already has two strong performances against the Packers on his resume.

Though Washington lost that playoff game at home on Jan. 10, 2016, Cousins completed 29 of 46 passes for 329 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. The following season when Green Bay returned to FedEx Field, Cousins went 21 for 30 for 375 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a victory.

“I’ve taken a lot of steps as a player and in my confidence,” Cousins said, reflecting on his progress since those matchups. “So I think that’s true of all of us in the league. The longer we play, the more we’re out there, the more we’re able to be in the fire and playing through mistakes and learning, it helps us be that much better the next time we go out.”

The Vikings are pleased to be the beneficiaries.

“The last two years, we’ve had a new quarterback by Week 2,” tight end Kyle Rudolphsaid. “The last few years we’ve been in a situation with a new quarterback that we didn’t get many reps with during the off-season. It is nice to be out there with a guy we’ve been working with since the middle of April and build a rapport with.”