Report: NFL planning to suspend Jameis Winston for 3 games due to alleged Uber driver groping incident

There were whispers of Jameis Winston receiving a three-game suspension on Wednesday, but that rumor just became much louder.

The NFL is indeed planning to suspend Winston for the first three games of next season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The violation stems from allegations that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback grabbed an Uber driver between her legs in 2016.

According to Schefter’s full report, Winston could consider an appeal, but circumstances around his salary reduce the chance he’ll take that route. Winston is scheduled to make only $705,000 next season through his rookie deal, but he’s in line for a massive pay raise to $20.9 million for the 2019-2020 season. Giving up three games in 2019-20, which could happen if Winston’s appeal manages to push the suspension back a year, would cost the quarterback more money than his entire salary in this upcoming season.

The initial rumors of Winston’s suspension came from a radio report by ESPN’s Jeff Cameron, who has a close relationship with Winston. Cameron reported that three games was the maximum suspension Winston was facing, but one or two games was more likely.

Jameis Winston’s alleged 2016 incident with Uber driver

The NFL opened its investigation into Winston after learning of an alleged incident at a drive-thru Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. when Winston reportedly grabbed the crotch of Kate, a female Uber driver who chose to withhold her last name due to fear of backlash. The initial Buzzfeed report includes Kate’s rundown of the incident after picking him up at 2 a.m. on March 13, 2016.

Waiting in line at the drive-thru of Los Betos Mexican Food, “he reached over and he just grabbed my crotch,” Kate said, alleging that Winston held his hand there for three to five seconds and removed it only after she looked up in shock and said, “What’s up with that?”

“I wasn’t just creeped out,” said Kate, who had been driving with Uber for more than two years at that point. (She no longer drives for the service.) “I was frozen.” She described Winston as “very physically imposing.”

The driver also accused Winston of shouting homophobic slurs at pedestrians. She reportedly filed a complaint with Uber soon after the ride, ending it by saying “He is NOT safe for other drivers.”

Winston, who has a checkered past going back to before his NFL career, has denied all allegations.

The NFL’s investigation of Jameis Winston has been ongoing since November and seems to be near its end. (AP Photo)
The NFL’s investigation of Jameis Winston has been ongoing since November and seems to be near its end. (AP Photo)

Why the NFL can suspend Jameis Winston

Even though no charges were filed against Winston, he can still be suspended under the league’s personal conduct policy. The NFL lists “sexual assault or other sex offenses” in its list of prohibited conduct, and it explicitly states that avoiding being found guilty of a crime is not enough to avoid punishment from the league.

“It is not enough to simply avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL and is lawful.”

Impact of Jameis Winston’s suspension

Ryan Fitzpatrick is in line to step in for Winston under center, which might not be too much fun when you consider that the NFL did the Buccaneers no favors with the first three weeks of their schedule.

Barring an appeal, the games Winston is in line to miss are the Buccaneers’ Week 1 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles and Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Given those teams went a combined 37-11 last season and didn’t seem to lose a ton over the offseason, a lot would need to break right for the Buccaneers to avoid being 0-3 when Winston comes back.

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