TAMPA: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was officially suspended three games on Thursday for a violation of the NFL’s personal-conduct policy at the conclusion of an ongoing league investigation into an alleged incident with an Uber driver in 2016.
The NFL “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, 24, accepted the suspension, which had first been reported last week.
“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 apologise,” Winston said in a statement. “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.”
“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.”
According to an NFL Network report, Winston’s apology was part of a negotiated settlement that resulted in the three-game suspension. Per the report, Winston did not admit guilt and told NFL investigators he does not believe he did what was alleged, but he also acknowledged that he does not clearly remember the whole evening after drinking throughout the night.
As a result of the suspension, Winston will forfeit US$124,000 (RM501,000) of his US$705,000 (RM2.848 million) base salary next season. Next year, Winston is due for a raise to US$20.9 million (RM84.4 million).
“All members of our organisation are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the Personal Conduct Policy of the NFL,” the Buccaneers said in a statement. “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.”
Winston will be required to obtain a clinical evaluation as part of his punishment. The league said future violations for Winston under the personal-conduct policy will “result in more substantial discipline, including a potential ban from the NFL.”
A female Uber driver in Arizona accused Winston of groping her in March 2016, and the league began its probe last November. Winston had publicly denied the allegations.
In March, the Buccaneers re-signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started three games and went 2-1 last season. Fitzpatrick was in the lineup after Winston injured his shoulder at New Orleans.
Fitzpatrick finished with seven touchdowns and three interceptions in 2017.
Tampa Bay opens the season against the Saints in New Orleans before hosting the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and then facing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Raymond James Stadium.
Last year, Winston completed 63.8% of his passes for 3,504 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. The #1 overall draft pick in 2015, Winston has an 18-27 record as a starter in his three NFL seasons.