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Tampa, Fla. — Jameis Winston had had football taken away from him, but until this season he had not been taken away from his team.

He missed three games with a shoulder injury last season. He was forced to watch a game against Clemson at Florida State for making some vulgar comments on campus.

But the three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy was different. Winston could not have any contact with coaches and was allowed only approved text messages to teammates.

“I was talking to Ali (Marpet) and Donovan (Smith) on Tuesday, and I just told them, ‘Guys, thank you. I don’t think you all understand how much I missed you guys,’” Winston said Thursday. “Just being able to be back in the routine of things because I worked so hard for this opportunity.

“Having this taken away from you briefly, it can make you reflect on things, like last year when I had my shoulder injury. It was tough for me. Even though I was happy we had success, I’ve never been out of football, you know, like out of the loop. So every day is a blessing to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and play this great game. So I’ve got to do my best to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Winston will get his first start since his suspension Sunday at Atlanta, a place close to his hometown of Bessemer, Ala., where he has had some of his best games as a pro with family and friends watching. Winston has thrown 12 career touchdowns and only two interceptions against the Falcons.

“Every time I play Atlanta, I just imagine growing up in Bessemer, Ala., being an hour away (by plane) from Atlanta, seeing Michael Vick run around and do his thing,” Winston said. “It’s always been a dream to compete against Atlanta and win against Atlanta. So, going back to Atlanta has always been like a home game for me. ”

Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken said Winston has looked sharp in practice. The Bucs played him the second half at Chicago before beginning their bye week.

“The days that we’ve had him, we had a practice Monday and he’s looked good,” Monken said. “Timing is good.”

Takeaway Browns

The Miami Hurricanes invented the turnover chain. The Browns borrowed that idea.

They’ve been stealing everything else lately.

With eight interceptions and seven forced fumbles in just five games, Cleveland’s defense leads the NFL with 15 takeaways — two more than the Browns got during 16 games in their winless 2017 season.

The dramatic swing has helped the Browns (2-2-1) turn things around quickly while breeding confidence into a getting-better-by-the-week team that feels like it can do much more than simply compete this season.

Creating turnovers has been a major emphasis of bombastic defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who devotes large chunks of practice — Thursday’s workout has been dubbed “Takeaway Thursday” — to drills geared toward getting the football.

The Browns work on stripping it, tipping it, recovering it and doing anything in their power to gain possession.

Litigation battle

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is planning to fight a pair of lawsuits filed against him stemming from an incident at a Florida apartment complex last spring.

Ophir Sternberg is seeking damages against Brown (Central Michigan), claiming that objects thrown by Brown from the 14th floor of an apartment building came close to striking Sternberg’s father and Sternberg’s 22-month-old son in April.

A second lawsuit filed by the owner of the apartment building is seeking more than $15,000 in damages from Brown.

Brown told police that the incidents occurred after a gun and $80,000 were stolen from the apartment. Brown said in a statement the lawsuits contained “false claims” against him.

Welcome back

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is ecstatic to have Greg Olsen back on the football field.

And he wants Olsen to remain on the field, so much that Newton said he asked his spiritual grandmother Hattie-Lou Newton to pray for the tight end’s continued health.

“That would be great,” Olsen said with a laugh, “I can use all of the help I can get.”

The 33-year-old Olsen practiced Thursday and is expected to return to action Sunday against Washington after missing three games with a broken foot.

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