TAMPA (FOX 13) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will indeed be suspended for the first three games of the season. Winston issued a statement today confirming the news and apologizing to his team, fans, and to the woman he allegedly groped.
Winston also said he's stopped drinking since the March 2016 incident in Scottsdale, Arizona.
"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," he wrote. "In the past 2½ 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."
The Uber driver, known only as "Kate," went public with her claims against Winston in an interview with BuzzFeed News this past November. She said that Winston grabbed her crotch while they waited in a drive-thru line at a Mexican restaurant.
Kate said she filed a complaint with Uber after her ride with Winston, but declined to file charges because she "didn't want to be publicly known as the woman who Jameis Winston groped."
Winston denied the driver's claims at the time, saying in a statement that she was "confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her."
But the NFL investigated the incident and found the woman's account "to be consistent and credible," earning Winston a three-game suspension.
"The investigation had 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," the league wrote Thursday, warning that future violations could lead to a ban from the NFL.
Winston said that he was disappointed by the decision but is not expected to appeal the suspension.
The Bucs face the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, and defending Super Bowl champ Philadelphia Eagles - with a combined record of 37 wins and 11 losses - in those first three games.
Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely lead the team during that time, as he did when Winston missed part of the 2017 season with a shoulder injury.
The Buccaneers picked up the fifth-year option on Winston's contract in April. In a brief statement this afternoon, the team said they were "disappointed that Jameis put himself in a position that has been found to violate the policy."
Read Winston's full statement:
"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."