Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is expected to be suspended for at least the first three games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s violating personal conduct policy, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.
Winston will be suspended before July 4 and possibly as early as Friday, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The top overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston’s punishment is the result of an investigation into allegations that he groped a female Uber driver in March 2016.
Neither Winston nor the team has been notified of the impending suspension, the NFL Network reported, citing sources. Both the network and the Tampa Bay Times reported that Winston could face more than a three-game suspension, with the newspaper adding that he is not expected to appeal.
The NFL announced in November that it was investigating the Uber incident in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Uber driver told BuzzFeed News that she picked up Winston around 2 a.m. local time on March 13, 2016.
The driver alleged Winston “behaved poorly” as soon as he got in the car, and then 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.
Winston has maintained his innocence and former Florida State teammate and Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby said he was with the quarterback in the backseat of the car and nothing occurred.
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.
The Buccaneers picked up the fifth-year contract option for Winston in April. He will earn $20.922 million — one reason he is not expected to appeal.
Under his current salary of $705,000, Winston would forfeit $124,000 for a three-game suspension. If he appeals and it carries over into next season, he could lose millions.
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.