Jackson told TMZ the following when confronted at the airport in Los Angeles and asked for a comment about Winston’s three-game suspension:
“You can’t turn your back on someone when they (are) going through something,” Jackson said. He also said of Winston that “he’s a good dude and a good teammate … he’s a champ … (has) been through a lot in his career.”
Although Winston wasn’t arrested or criminally charged, his punishment from the NFL comes in the wake of the league’s lengthy investigation into allegations that he groped a female Uber driver in March 2016 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The NFL said in its statement that Winston advised the league office that he accepts the discipline. Winston noted in his statement that he looks 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’s suspension will go into effect on Sept. 1. He will miss the season opener at New Orleans and home games against reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia and Pittsburgh before he is eligible to return on Sept. 25.
The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston was accused by the Uber driver of behaving “poorly” as soon as he got in the car about 2 a.m. local time on March 13. The driver told Buzzfeed that he asked her to stop at a drive-thru restaurant during the ride.
While in line, the driver said Winston, who was the only passenger in the car, reached over and “grabbed” her crotch for three to five seconds.
The 24-year-old Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. He was hampered by a shoulder injury in 2017, limiting him to a career-worst 3,504 passing yards with 19 touchdowns in 13 games.
Tampa Bay picked up the fifth-year contract option for Winston in April. Under his current salary of $705,000, Winston would forfeit $124,000 for the three-game suspension.
Winston has completed 939 of 1,544 passes for 11,636 yards with 69 touchdowns and 44 interceptions in 45 career games with the Buccaneers. He has also rushed for 513 yards with eight scores.
Jackson was limited to just 50 receptions for 668 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games last season.