By Michael Donovan
The Eagles don’t begin defense of their Super Bowl crown until Sept. 6 against the Atlanta Falcons.
But they got good news yesterday about their second opponent, the Tampa Bay Bucs.
They’ll be without their starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, who was suspended by the NFL yesterday for the first three games because he inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in March 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
In a statement, the NFL said Winston violated the league’s personal conduct policy “by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.”
“Disciplinary action was necessary and appropriate,” the statement said.
Winston’s suspension is without pay and he won’t appeal.
The NFL said in its statement that Winston is required to obtain a clinical evaluation and fully cooperate with any recommended therapeutic intervention program. The league said if Winston doesn’t comply, it could result in further discipline. The NFL also said another violation of the personal conduct policy will result in more substantial discipline, including a potential ban.
“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,” Winston said in a statement. “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.”
Winston also said in his statement that he has to “hold myself to a higher standard on and off the field,” and added that he has “eliminated” drinking alcohol.
The Buccaneers said in a statement they are “disappointed that Jameis put himself in a position that has been found to violate the policy.”
Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will start in Winston’s place. The Bucs open the season on the road against the New Orleans Saints, followed by two home games, against the Eagles and on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fitzpatrick won two of three starts for the Bucs last season when Winston had a shoulder injury.
The league began its investigation in November 2017 when a woman, who identified herself as “Kate,” told BuzzFeed that Winston reached over and grabbed her crotch while waiting at a drive-thru at Los Betos Mexican Food at 2 a.m. Restaurant management told ESPN that they did not have security footage of the drive-thru.
No police charges were filed but the driver did file a formal complaint with Uber. She told BuzzFeed that she wanted to tell the truth “about a powerful man who felt entitled to my body when all I wanted to do was my job.” Uber confirmed to ESPN that Winston’s riding privileges were revoked, but Winston did not notify the league of the complaint.