Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby said he was in an Uber ride with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston on March 13, 2016, and is vowing his college teammate did nothing inappropriate with the driver.
Darby, who played with Winston at Florida State, released a statement Sunday, two days after the NFL confirmed it was investigating the female Uber driver’s allegation that Winston groped her.
“I felt the need to come forward and clarify some inaccurate accounts of the evening of March 13, 2016 when myself, a friend and Jameis Winston took an Uber ride in Arizona,” Darby said in his statement. “There were three of us in the car, not just one as has been reported. Myself and Jameis were in the backseat. I am confident that nothing inappropriate in nature happened in the car that evening and Jameis did not have any physical contact with the Uber driver. The accusations are just not true.”
Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, found out about the Winston case last week and launched the league’s investigation shortly after.
It is considered standard practice for the NFL to inquire about cases such as this. However, a source said that as of Sunday morning, the league still had not informed the NFL Players Association that it is investigating of one of its players, which it is required to do. In the past, the NFL has been accused of not informing the players’ association when it has investigated a player.
This raises more questions about the NFL’s checkered history into looking into cases that involve high-profile stars. Many around the league are bracing for another drawn-out, messy process with Winston, one of the league’s most well-known young players.
The league’s investigation was first reported Friday by BuzzFeed News, which viewed a letter it said Friel had sent to the Uber driver. Winston has denied the allegations, saying in a statement Friday that the “accusation is false.”
The driver, who declined to give her name, told BuzzFeed News that she picked Winston up at around 2 a.m. on March 13, 2016, in Scottsdale, Arizona. She told BuzzFeed that Winston asked her to stop at a drive-thru restaurant during the ride, and while in line, the driver said Winston reached over and “grabbed” her crotch for three to five seconds, only removing his hand when she said something.
The driver told BuzzFeed News that Winston was the only passenger in the car and said that she reported the incident to Uber at the time.
Winston, in his statement Friday, said, “the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her.” He was in Arizona for Kurt Warner’s annual Ultimate Football Experience event during the weekend that the incident allegedly occurred.
A Scottsdale Police Department spokesperson told ESPN’s Jenna Laine that the driver “did not call us or file a report with us.” The Phoenix Police Department also confirmed to Laine that it was not contacted about an incident involving Winston and an Uber driver.
This is not the first time that Darby has defended Winston.
Darby and former FSU defensive end Chris Casher said they were in Winston’s off-campus apartment the night he was accused of sexually assaulting a female FSU student in December 2012.
Darby and Casher provided authorities with affidavits indicating they saw Winston having consensual sex with the woman, but they later refused to testify at a student conduct code hearing regarding the allegations. Winston was never criminally charged by authorities in the incident, and he was cleared of violating FSU’s student conduct code by a retired Florida state Supreme Court justice.
FSU officials reached a $950,000 settlement with the woman in January 2016 after she sued the university in federal court, and she and Winston reached an undisclosed settlement in December 2016.