Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston apologized Thursday for the actions that led to him being suspended for three games to start the 2018 season, as the NFL made official the news that had been previously reported by multiple media organizations.
The suspension stems from an alleged March 2016 incident with an Uber driver in Arizona in which she accused the Bucs QB of groping her. No charges were filed.
The text of Winston’s statement, via NFL.com:
“The NFL informed me today that I will be suspended for the first three games of the season.
“First and foremost, I would like to say I’m sorry to the Uber driver for the position I put you in. It is uncharacteristic of me and I genuinely apologize. In the past 2 1/2 years my life has been filled with experiences, opportunities and events that have helped me grow, mature and learn, including the fact that I have eliminated alcohol from my life.
“I know I have to hold myself to a higher standard on and off the field and that I have a responsibility to my family, community, and teammates to live above the platform with which God has blessed me. I apologize to my teammates, the Buccaneers organization and fans for letting them down and for not being able to be out there for the first three games of the season. Although I am disappointed in the NFL’s decision, I understand the NFL’s process, and I embrace this as an opportunity to take advantage of the resources available to help me achieve the goals that I have for myself.
“I now look forward to putting this behind me and I will continue to work hard every day to be a positive influence in my community and be the best person, teammate and leader I can be.”
The Bucs’ first three games, now with backup Ryan Fitzpatrick expected to be the starter, are against the Saints, Eagles and Steelers. Winston completed 282 of 442 passes for 3,504 yards and 19 TDs with 11 interceptions in 2017 as the Bucs went 5-11.
The NFL said in a release that Winston “has advised the league office that he accepts this discipline” and will not appeal.
The Bucs released a statement that read: “All members of our organization are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the Personal Conduct Policy of the NFL. We are disappointed that Jameis put himself in a position that has been found to violate the policy and accept today’s decision by the Commissioner.”
Earlier this week, Pro Football Talk — under the headline, “Did Jameis Winston, NFL strike a deal?” — did some interesting connecting of dots over the reported punishment under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The baseline suspension for Winston’s behavior is a six-game suspension, and he’ll get half that, despite the fact that the NFL’s investigation “concluded that Winston violated the Personal Conduct Policy by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent and that disciplinary action was necessary and appropriate.”
Winston apparently is willing to accept the suspension, rather than appealing, which would expose the NFL to another protracted investigation/hearing process that could end up in court (think: Ezekiel Elliott P.R. debacle).
One of the key components of the NFL’s announcement on Winston’s suspension: “A future violation of the Personal Conduct Policy will result in more substantial discipline, including a potential ban from the NFL.”
When that component was reported earlier this week, PFT’s Mike Florio, who it’s worth noting has a law degree, wrote: “That feels like the kind of term that would be added to a negotiated compromise aimed at wrapping things up easily, while also making it even easier to whack him with another penalty if he runs afoul of the NFL’s expectations.”
By late last week, it was becoming clear that not only was Winston’s defense in the Uber incident troublesome, but former Florida State teammate and Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby’s claims as a key witness were, too.
According to NFL.com, the league’s investigation found that Darby — who claimed Winston had no physical contact with the driver — wasn’t in the vehicle for the entire ride.
A few notes on Jameis Winston’s situation, following up on reports from ESPN Tallahassee and ESPN. One thing to highlight: Ronald Darby’s backing Winston ultimately didn’t hold water because he wasn’t in the car the whole time, the NFL’s investigation found. pic.twitter.com/hd0wAsfSpS
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) June 21, 2018
The Uber driver’s attorney previously had asked the NFL to investigate Darby, demanding he turn his phone over to have the GPS history examined.