The NFL has suspended Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston for the first three games of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported and Winston confirmed to him.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported the suspension was the result of settlement talks between the NFL, NFLPA and Winston's reps, and there will be no appeal.
Winston gave a statement to Rapoport on the suspension, where he apologized to the Uber driver who he was accused of groping: “It is uncharacteristic of me and I genuinely apologize.” He added that he has “eliminated alcohol from (his) life.”
He also said, "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."
The full statement can be read below:
“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.”
Winston was accused of groping an Uber driver in March 2016. The NFL announced it was looking into the matter when the incident was reported by Buzzfeed News in November 2017. A friend of the quarterback said this week that Winston was alone with the driver and not riding with friends like it was previously claimed.
The driver says she picked up Winston in Scottsdale, Ariz., in the early morning hours of March, 13, 2016. As they waited in the drive-through lane at a restaurant, Winston “reached over and he just grabbed my crotch,” the woman told Buzzfeed.
No police charges were filed, but the driver filed a formal complaint with Uber and Winston was banned from using the service.
While a student at Florida State, Winston was accused of raping a female student. The alleged 2012 assault was not publicized until 2013 amid controversy of a cover up by the school and Tallahassee police. The woman in that case, Erica Kinsman, sued Florida State and reached a settlement that would pay her $950,000. Winston was also suspended for half a game in 2014 for shouting a sexual explicit phrase in public.
Winston will lose $124,000 in base salary for a three-game suspension because his base salary is only $705,000 this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the Bucs' starting quarterback in the event of a Winston suspension. Fitzpatrick went 2–1 when Winston sat with a shoulder injury last season. Ryan Griffin would assume Fitzpatrick's backup duties.
The Buccaneers open the season in New Orleans to face the Saints on Sept. 9. The Bucs then host the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles in Week 2 and then the Steelers in Week 3.