The entire Buccaneers world was turned upside down on Wednesday evening when a report from Jeff Cameron (of ESPN Radio 97.9 in Tallahassee) announced over the airwaves that Jameis Winston’s camp is preparing for a suspension to start the 2018 NFL season – of up to three games.

This all comes from the league’s ongoing investigation of a female Uber driver’s allegation that Winston groped her during a stop at the drive-through of a Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, March 13, 2016.

Right when the report came out, Winston denied such allegations immediately.

“The story falsely accuses me of making inappropriate contact with this driver,” Winston wrote. “I believe the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her. The accusation is false, and given the nature of the allegation and increased awareness and consideration of these types of matters, I am addressing this false report immediately. At the time of the alleged incident, I denied the allegations to Uber, yet they still decided to suspend my account.

“I am supportive of the national movement to raise awareness and develop better responses to the concerns of parties who find themselves in these types of situations, but this accusation is false. While I am certain that I did not make any inappropriate contact, I don’t want to engage in a battle with the driver and I regret if my demeanor or presence made her uncomfortable in any way.”

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Since then the NFL has had an open investigation in the matter. The NFL does not particularly work fast with these. Some would say they’re doing their due diligence in the appropriate time, and others will tell you the league likes to drag things on for its own sake.

Whichever you believe, we now have the report from Cameron that Winston is, allegedly, bracing for a suspension, but not due to him being guilty of the allegations, Rather, it’s because he failed to comply to the NFL Personal Conduct Policy that states it’s his responsibility to report any potential incident to the league office as soon as it happens.

“What he’ll be suspended over is a failure to report,” Cameron said. “And that’s frustrating. That’s a league obviously attempting, and understandably because they’ve made previous mis-steps, transgressions, they’re now apt to protect themselves to the nth degree and protect the shield, and so on and so forth… Under current conduct policy, you have to, as a player… promptly report any matter that comes to their attention that may constitute a violation of policy.”

The recent news of Winston being suspended isn’t even a matter of Winston being guilty of the accusations. At this point, it could be about technicalities of protecting the NFL’s brand instead of whether or not he did or didn’t do it or was even in the car.

That is something that exists in the language of the new NFL Personal Conduct Policy that was passed in December of 2016.

Clubs and players are obligated to promptly report any matter that comes to their attention (through, for example, victim or witness reports, law enforcement, or media reports) that may constitute a violation of this Policy. Clubs are expected to educate their employees on this obligation to report. Club reports should be made to NFL Security or Adolpho Birch of the Management Council legal staff. Questions about whether an incident triggers a reporting obligation should be directed to Adolpho Birch or Lisa Friel of the league office.

So, according to the current Conduct Policy, which is still in place today, Winston could potentially be held accountable for not reporting this instance when it happened. We know that because there is a voicemail from Uber contacting Winston “recently” after the incident occurred in March of 2016, which suspended Winston’s Uber account.

“Hi Jameis, this is Chris calling from the Uber office. I’m following up on a report we had from one of your recent trips where you or someone in the vehicle with you had some inappropriate behavior. I just want to follow up and get some more information on that. Your Uber account is on temporary hold while we investigate the situation. I’ll follow up with e-mail and hopefully we can find a better time to connect.”

Now, this is where things get a little tricky and where the NFL’s investigative measures that we do not know of, at this time, come into play.

Winston getting a voicemail like that where all it says is “inappropriate behavior” is very vague. That could be anything from using foul language or jumping all over the car or spilling food or drinks; anything like that. Of course, it could also be more serious, something such as the allegation that was brought before him. If Uber, in fact, emailed Winston and gave him the details of what allegations were presented to them after that voicemail, then the NFL may have the power to act on a failing to report. But, if Winston never received an email with the details of what the inappropriate behavior was or if they did not call him again and do so over the phone, then Winston could have a case to fight the NFL suspending him over a failure to report when Winston didn’t even know what he was supposed to report. Vague “inappropriate behavior” likely isn’t enough, especially if the league was not able to find any evidence of validity to the allegations against him, which we are not certain of either yet.

And there’s another element to this.

The incident occurred in March of 2016. The NFL’s current Personal Conduct Policy did not begin until late 2016. So, when this alleged incident occurred, that was not the exact language that was in the Conduct Policy, at that time. That, in theory, could give Winston some leverage to fight a suspension since he couldn’t violate a policy that didn’t exist yet.

However, the Conduct Policy that was in place, at the time – which went live in 2014 – did have language in it that, again, could be enough for the league to act the way it sees fit.

Clubs are obligated to promptly report any matter that comes to their attention (through, for example, victim or witness reports, law enforcement, media reports) that may constitute a violation of this Policy. Clubs are expected to educate their employees on this obligation to report. League employees who are aware of an incident that may violate this Personal Conduct Policy have a similar obligation to report the matter. Reports should be made to any of Robert Gulliver or Tara Wood of Human Resources, Jeffrey Miller of NFL Security or Adolpho Birch of the Management Council legal staff.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – Photo by: Getty Images

If you’ll notice, the word “players” was not present at the beginning of the 2014 Conduct Policy like it is in the current one from 2016. However, the sentence “clubs are expected to educate their employees on this obligation to report” likely takes all the power out of Winston’s hands again if, in fact, he was made known of the details of the “inappropriate behavior” that Uber first notified him of. Under that Conduct Policy, the NFL could actually be able to legally blame the Buccaneers franchise for not knowing this (via the responsibility to tell their players to report any incident) and not reporting it to the NFL themselves. That also could be enough grounds for them to suspend however they see fit – in this case, the player involved.

But, all of this stems from whether or not Winston was told the details of the incident soon after they actually happened and not over a year and a half later when Buzzfeed came out with their breaking news report.

That is likely all of what the NFL has been investigating, and could likely be why we hear that people like Winston’s former Florida State teammate Ronald Darby (who might have been in the vehicle) and even Winston had not been interviewed yet. The case of story itself might already be closed by the NFL, but the investigation to see if Winston and the Buccaneers fully complied with the league’s reporting policy could still be on going and, according to Cameron’s recent report, not going well for those hoping Winston gets out of this without a scratch.

Many believe the most difficult part of the Buccaneers’ 2018 schedule happens in the early part of the schedule which begins at New Orleans, followed by home games against Super Bowl champion Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, which takes place on Monday Night Football.

Always above everything, we want truth and justice. If Winston did what he is being accused of, suspend him – no debate. But, it could very well be in the end that Winston isn’t suspended for truth in the allegation, but rather, technicalities and legal wording that allows the NFL to protect its brand in any cases that come before them as they see fit.

Time will tell and we should all learn of Winston’s fate sometime later this summer.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
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jerseybucsfan
jerseybucsfan
4 years ago

Can the league screw these things up any more? In the end, they are essentially saying we don’t care about the potential victim AND we don’t care about the potential innocent person falsely blamed. We care about the shield. Talk about arrogant!

Wausa
Wausa
4 years ago

The Bucs have a very delicate psyche. If Jamies is suspended I’m afraid this team will not recover and will end up with a record as bad if not worst than last year.

Rut
Rut
4 years ago

Jesus it’s doom and gloom on here lately. Koetter 5th most likely to be fired S Ward says he wasn’t allowed to play to his strengths Jameis preparing for suspension But, this is why we’re Bucs fans. We’re gluttons for punishment. I’ve got to say, I’m fully expecting a 3 game suspension, but not for any real reason other than that good old fashioned “Buc Luck”. Of course we’ll be without our best QB for our toughest 3 games. Of course the only Bucs game I’ll be able to watch on TV out here in AZ this year will have… Read more »

Buc76
Buc76
4 years ago

we could very easily start 0-3. if that happens the season is over.

Horse
Horse
4 years ago

What I don’t like about any of these type of policies is what happens if you report every little possible thing? Insurance companies claims is it good example. Whether you are at fault or not you take a hit; same for a ticket for a traffic violation you take a hit weather you defend it or not and win.
If Winston does get suspended, I suspect it will be for two games so he will be ready to go on Monday Night Football which could cause less audience participation and watching the game if he is not in the game

Horse
Horse
Reply to  Horse
4 years ago

Sorry I use voice text and forgot to correct the grammar.

Charlie
Charlie
4 years ago

When is this guy just gonna stop putting himself in dubious situations….he may not have done anything this time…but he really needs to stop being a bonehead on and off the field. He’s really annoying.

Buc-n-Philly Fan
Buc-n-Philly Fan
Reply to  Charlie
4 years ago

Yeah!! That dumb ass should keep himself out of situations…like taking an uber instead of driving drunk or just not go out in public in general cause you know he is putting himself in bad positions if he goes out in public. What a moron!!

If you can’t tell my sarcasm at your dumb ass statement then you are more ignorant than what your posts suggest.

Dman
Dman
Reply to  Buc-n-Philly Fan
4 years ago

Amen.

Horse
Horse
Reply to  Charlie
4 years ago

Usually when you get married and have a child you grow up quickly.

Mike.Seven
Mike.Seven
4 years ago

It will be about 8 games into the year when some Bucs fans realize instead of Fat Veta they could of have had Josh Allen. I know I am out of line and to most of you stupid The Franchise is not a franchise and this year will only be worse I do not think Fitz or Griffin is the answer and Allen is only here for an injury fill-in during the preseason. Jamies will be suspended a few games and play catch up all year. I will come here and here the excuses again this year. unless they drop… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  Mike.Seven
4 years ago

Haha while I can appreciate your me against the world attitude, you’re entitled to say what you want. Just as we are entitled to laugh at the stupidity of what you post.

surferdudes
4 years ago

How does suspending star players, who only play 16 games a year, over minor B.S. protect it’s brand? We pay to see these guys play only 16 times a year, you’re hurting the fans. Fine him a game check, but let my people go!!

Horse
Horse
Reply to  surferdudes
4 years ago

Totally agree.

surferdudes
4 years ago

And they wonder why ratings are down. Because no one wants to watch Fitz but a few posers on this site.

Horse
Horse
Reply to  surferdudes
4 years ago

Again totally agree

owlykat
owlykat
4 years ago

You can’t punish someone for not reporting to the NFL if the rule did not exist at the time Jameis first learned of the allegation. Likely, the NFL’s Lawyers are explaining the law to their Commissioner after he opened his big mouth about a suspension. And if his Lawyers explain to him he could be personally sued in a 1983 Suit he may be quickly reconsidering. He knows from all the boos at the draft that he is hated by the public around the league. The Bucs should be consulting their own lawyers and get prepared to appeal if a… Read more »

Bayside4Life
Bayside4Life
Reply to  owlykat
4 years ago

I agree that the inclusion of “players” into the revised reporting language suggests that players were not subject to the previous version. Unfortunately, I think they personal conduct policy as a whole is so broad, even if they couldn’t establish an obligation to report, they likely can still punish him for “Conduct that undermines…the integrity of the League.” I am very confused as to how Roger Goodell could be exposed to a 42 USC 1983 suit. How could he be a state actor? Ultimately, I think the NFL (unfortunately) has a lot of authority and little risk of exposure in… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  owlykat
4 years ago

Good to know the legal options.

Dman
Dman
Reply to  owlykat
4 years ago

Couldn’t agree more. And couldn’t have more disappointed in the owners for renewing Goodell’s contract.

owlykat
owlykat
4 years ago

I think the NFL just opened Pandora’s Box. What kind of TV revenue are they going to get taking Jameis off TV for weeks? They are the ones who gave their Commissioner a fat new contract just as their NFL attendance and TV ratings took a big hit due to ignorant decisions by their Commissioner. I hope they wise up before it is too late.

macabee
macabee
4 years ago

I’m going to wait for the facts guys. In the meantime, Training camp is right around the corner. Regardless of how this turns out and I hope for the better, football will be played. So cheer up! Here are the Training Camp dates. Go Bucs!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookie reporting date: July 23

Veteran reporting date: July 25

First practice: July 26

Location: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa, Florida

Bucsfan1983
Bucsfan1983
4 years ago

He can appeal right? This is total BS. He’s not guilty. When supposed incident happened it was before new conduct policy, as Trevor mentioned above.

Mike Wright
Mike Wright
4 years ago

To be honest, mpst of us ole school Buc Fans could care less about yet another excuse for Losing. Get her Done! Next man up. We are so sick of this sorry franchise losing every year. We hired rejects from ATL as coaches. And now say we have fixed things.So put Fitz in and win during the suspensions. If we do not win 3 of our 1st 6 games? The seasons done. Lets feature Both Koetter and Smitty on Nat Geo Wild’s Shark Week and be done with them!!!!!