NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Saints starting quarterback Jameis Winston feels both excited and grateful to be back on the field with his teammates during Offseason Training Activities (OTAs) after a knee injury in Week 8 ended his season last year.

The 28-year-old, seven-year veteran addressed media after Day 3 of OTAs on Thursday.

Winston, who threw for 14 touchdowns for 1,170 yards and just three interceptions after taking over for future hall-of-famer Drew Brees, who retired following the 2020 season, returns without the challenge of Taysom Hill for the starting role.

Earlier in the offseason after, new head coach Dennis Allen said he would move the ever-versatile Hill off the QB depth chart and into a flex tight end role to get more field time.

Despite participating in OTAs, he is still in the recovery process. But according to Winston, both he and the team have time to follow protocol and continue the healing process.

“Right now the brace is mandatory [while] out on the field, just in the beginning process” he said. “I am going to wear the brace in the season. Everyone does that after an ACL, especially at the quarterback position. There is nothing limiting, there’s nothing that bothers you from that perspective. So, I’m commanding the brace now.”

Winston said the brace will not limit his scrambling ability, and in fact it has put more emphasis on the importance of his knee drive.

“Being able to rehab different parts of my hip flexors, like I’ve never really worked on sprint mechanics before,” he said. “But being able to get into rehab and work those types of things has opened up my gait a little bit.”

As far as playing a preseason schedule to shake off the rust, Winston said he’s ready for whatever Coach Allen has for him he will be prepared. But he also said his doctors have decided there is no reason to rush.

However, Winston admitted he is excited at the possibility of working with an upgraded receiving corps, which includes first-round draft choice Chris Olave (Ohio State), newly signed free agent and former Lutcher High School and LSU star Jarvis Landry and a returning Michael Thomas, who missed all of last season due to an ankle injury.

“It’s exciting. For one, the dream of playing with Mike Thomas, as dominant as a receiver as he was before he got injured,” said Winston. “The addition of Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry is phenomenal. Also, you got guys like Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith, who are playing great football. The competition in that room just went up another level.

“I hadn’t even talked about, Deonte [Harty],” he continued. “Just having him be in a role where we get to take hits off of him because he doesn’t have to play 55 plays, he gets to play 30 plays on offense and be electric on special teams.”

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