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.

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Jameis Winston through the years
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Jameis Winston through the years
Oct 19, 2013; Clemson, SC, USA;Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) celebrates with teammates following against the Clemson Tigers the game at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Seminoles won 51-14. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2013; Clemson, SC, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) throws the ball during the second half against the Clemson Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Seminoles won 51-14. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 9, 2013; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) smiles on the bench during the fourth quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Florida State defeated Wake Forest 59-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 16, 2013; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) throws the ball as he is watched by Syracuse Orange defensive back Darius Kelly (18) during the game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 23, 2013; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) signs autographs for fans after the game against the Idaho Vandals at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2014; Newport Beach, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston at the 2014 BCS National Championship press conference at Newport Beach Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) throws against the Auburn Tigers during the second half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Florida Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston holds the championship trophy after they defeated the Auburn Tigers to win the BCS Championship football game in Pasadena, California January 6, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
May 1, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) is introduced at a press conference at One Buc Place the day after being selected as the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) drops back to throw during the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) celebrates as he leaves the field following his first career win in the NFL coming against the New Orleans Saints in a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Buccaneers defeated the Saints 26-19. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) and wide receiver Russell Shepard (89) celebrate their touchdown connection during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws the ball during the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) trade jerseys after the game at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 14-5. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) greets defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) after the Carolina Panthers failed on a two point conversion attempt to tie the game in the second half at Raymond James Stadium. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Carolina Panthers 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 13: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers throws during the first half of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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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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