Jameis Winston returns to the field under cloud of assault allegation

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 05: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up before a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 5, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will return to the field Sunday in Green Bay to take on the Packers, but the concerns aren’t just about his physical health.

Winston has been on the bench since leaving the game in Week 9 against the Saints with a shoulder injury. However, it’s an allegation of sexual assault that’s getting attention off the field.

“I have no fear at all,” Winston said, answering a reporter’s question about whether he’s worried he could be suspended. “Like I said I have to respect the process.”

“The process” is an NFL investigation into the accusation by an Uber driver that he grabbed her crotch when she gave him and friends a late-night ride after a party in Scottsdale, Arizona in March 2016.

While Winston has been on the bench, the NFL sent a letter to the driver notifying her they were investigating the incident.

RELATED: Jameis Winston removed from Uber as NFL investigates 2016 groping incident

Winston addressed reporters Thursday, and after several questions about his on-the-field play, a few reporters asked about the Uber driver’s allegations.

“I put my statement out there discussing this allegation and I gotta respect the process on that part,” Winston said. “I’ve been vindicated several times on the recent–on the past situation–so you know, my statements on that, on those accusations, stand firm too.”

The statement was released from Winston’s Twitter account on November 17:

A news organization has published a story about me regarding an alleged incident involving a female Uber driver from approximately two years ago. The story falsely accuses me of making inappropriate contact with this driver. 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.

There is no timeline on the NFL’s investigation.

The Bucs will take on the Packers Sunday at 1 p.m. with an outside chance they could still make the playoffs if they can put together a late-season run.

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