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NFL Notebook: Bucs QB Winston reportedly facing suspension

Sports Xchange - Saturday 23rd June, 2018

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston reportedly is facing a three-game suspension by the NFL for groping a female Uber driver in 2016.

The NFL decided to punish Winston following an eight-month investigation into the incident, which was denied by the former No. 1 overall draft pick.

Winston's account also was supported by former Florida State teammate Ronald Darby, a cornerback with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Darby said he was with Winston in the car and released a statement in November in which he said "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."

So why was Darby's version of events apparently ignored? According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, Darby's account was deemed inaccurate after league investigators discovered he was not in the vehicle the entire time.

The Uber driver told BuzzFeed News that she picked up Winston around 2 a.m. local time in Scottsdale, Ariz., 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 she said was the only passenger in the car, reached over and "grabbed" her crotch for three to five seconds.

When the accusations came to light in November, Winston released a statement which said in part: "I believe the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her."

Darby released his statement two days later, refuting the allegations and claiming he and Winston were seated in the backseat of the vehicle.

The 24-year-old Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass 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.

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.

--Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly is recovering following the latest surgical procedure in his battle against oral cancer.

Kelly's wife, Jill Kelly, posted an update on her husband's condition on her Instagram account Thursday. The post was accompanied by a photo of the couple holding hands.

"Never stop holding hands. In sickness and in health," wrote Jill Kelly wrote. "Out of surgery and in recovery.

"Still in a lot of pain, but everything went well. Thank GOD! No teeth yet, but 5 implants were inserted into the new bone in Jim's upper jaw. More technical than I can explain."

The 58-year-old Kelly underwent a 12-hour procedure on March 28 to remove oral cancer and reconstruct his upper jaw. He was discharged from a New York hospital on April 14.

Kelly was diagnosed with cancer in his jaw in 2013 and underwent surgery. After doctors determined the cancer had spread to his nasal cavities, he underwent additional treatments and had another surgery in March 2014.

In 2016, Kelly was declared cancer-free before the disease returned earlier this year.

During the early 1990s, Kelly led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances. He retired after the 1996 season and was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2002.

--Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross' rookie season was forgettable by nearly every measure.

Ross saw action in only three games, playing a total of 17 snaps, and failed to make one reception during an injury-riddled 2017 after he was taken by the Bengals with the ninth overall pick in the NFL Draft.

As much as the injuries were a factor, Ross told Sirius XM NFL Radio that the criticism he received about his willingness to play through pain was difficult to absorb.

"When people question the things that you desire when they don't understand, it's kind of tough on a player," Ross said. "Because you don't understand why they would do something like that, because they just really don't know what you're going through. And I think that's the problem sometimes, the fact that people don't understand that you are dealing with something that's traumatic to your career and they really can't seem to feel the pain that you're going through. So they really don't understand."

Even when Ross was healthy, he was ruled inactive in nine of 12 games by the Bengals, further ratcheting up the pressure on a speedster who was expected to be a perfect complement to Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Green.

"No one wants to be hurt and no one plans on being hurt, so you've got to look at the guys who work hard every day and then they go out and there's freak accidents, there's things that happen all the time," said Ross.

A standout at the University of Washington, Ross opened eyes nationally when he clocked a blazing 4.22 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, the fastest time ever recorded there.

However, Ross was held back from the start of training camp while rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder and then suffered a sprained knee in his preseason finale.

Ross finally got on the field against the Houston Texans on Sept. 14 and it was not a debut to remember. He had one carry for 12 yards but fumbled on the play.

The 24-year-old Ross did not see the field again until Oct. 29 and, after hurting his shoulder again, eventually was placed on season-ending injured reserve in early December.

--Free agent running back Orleans Darkwa, who led the New York Giants in rushing last season, announced on Twitter that he has been medically cleared to resume football activities.

The 5-11, 190-pound Darkwa underwent surgery in May to remove a plate from his left leg, which was broken in 2016.

Darkwa rushed 171 times for 751 yards and five touchdowns for the Giants last season, but it seems unlikely to return to the team, which has added Saquon Barkley, the second pick in the NFL Draft, and veteran free agent Jonathan Stewart to its backfield this offseason.

The 26-year-old Darkwa was signed by the Miami Dolphins as a free agent out of Tulane in 2014, but was released after playing only four games that season.

Darkwa signed with the Giants in November 2014 and scored the first touchdown of his NFL career the following month against the St. Louis Rams. In four NFL seasons, he has rushed for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns.

--DeMarcus Ware knows a little something about getting after the quarterback.

So it says something when Ware compares Denver Broncos rookie linebacker Bradley Chubb to one of the elite pass rushers in NFL history: himself.

"You know what? He can be," Ware said on a Talk of Fame Network podcast when asked if Chubb can fill his shoes. "He's one of those guys who's mature. He listens. And that's what you want from a young guy. Because some of them come in very arrogant, saying, 'OK, I'm in the league now.' But to me, he has that 'I just arrived' mentality. 'Now what do I need to do to deliver?'"

Ware retired in 2016 after spending the last three seasons of his 12-year NFL career with the Broncos, helping the team win a Super Bowl championship following the 2015 campaign. He walked away from the game ranked eighth on the all-time list with 138.5 sacks.

Earlier this month, Denver hired Ware as a pass-rush consultant for the team, which will give him an opportunity to work with Chubb, the No. 5 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft.

Chubb, who signed his rookie contract on Thursday, recorded 25 sacks and 54.5 tackles for loss with North Carolina State. He registered 10 sacks in each of his last two seasons with the Wolfpack.

With Shane Ray expected to miss the start of the season, Chubb will start opposite All-Pro linebacker Von Miller. Denver amassed at least 41 sacks in each of Ware's final three seasons, but that number dipped to 33 in 2017.

--The Cleveland Browns overhauled their roster in the offseason and one of the biggest areas of change was in the running game.

Isaiah Crowell, who started all 32 games and led the team in rushing the past two seasons, was allowed to leave via free agency -- a void the Browns filled by signing free agent Carlos Hyde.

Cleveland also used its second-round pick to select rookie Nick Chubb out of the University of Georgia, creating a logjam in a backfield that also includes Duke Johnson.

Browns running backs coach Freddie Kitchens is not concerned about how to divvy up the workload among the running backs. Instead, views the glut of talent as a nice problem to have.

"Ultimately, all three of those guys can run our running game," Kitchens told the team's official website. "Duke can do a few more things in the passing game. Ultimately, we feel like that is a position of strength. Coach (Bill) Parcells taught me a long time ago, do not turn a position of strength into a weakness.

"You would like to keep it a strength, and we are fortunate that is where we are."

Kitchens said his strategy for doling out carries will be simple: He plans to ride the "hot hand" from one week to another.

"If they are having success, why would you change?" asked Kitchens.

Hyde and Johnson already have a track record of success in the NFL, although the latter has carved out more of a role as one of the league's top pass-catching running backs.

Despite the moves to fortify the ground game with the acquisitions of Hyde and Chubb, Cleveland signed Johnson to a three-year contract extension worth a reported $15.6 million earlier this month.

Although he had a career-high four rushing touchdowns in 2017, Johnson also established a personal best with 74 receptions for 693 yards and three scores.

"Duke has done some great things for our offensive football team," head coach Hue Jackson told the team's website. "We expect him to do even more this year."

Hyde, a second-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 following a stellar career at Ohio State, has had problems staying healthy but did appear in all 16 games in his career for the first time in 2017.

Similar to Crowell, the 230-pound Hyde provides a physical presence but he provides an added dimension with his receiving skills, posting a career-high 59 catches last season.

"We know that he is a bruiser once the pads come on," said quarterback Tyrod Taylor, acquired in an offseason trade with the Buffalo Bills. "Something that I have been impressed with is his catching ability. I did not really know much about Carlos before he came here. I played against him one time in Buffalo."

Chubb, who was selected with the No. 35 pick overall, arrived in Cleveland with much fanfare despite splitting time with Sony Michel -- a first-round pick of the New England Patriots -- at Georgia, which reached the national championship game last season.

The 5-foot-10, 225-pound Chubb rushed for 4,769 yards with 44 touchdowns in four seasons with Georgia, averaging 6.3 yards per carry for his career. He amassed 1,345 rushing yards and scored a career-high 15 touchdowns in 2017.

--The San Francisco 49ers signed offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson to a three-year contract extension through the 2021 season, the team announced.

The 6-3, 212-pound Tomlinson was acquired by the 49ers in a trade with the Detroit Lions on Aug. 31, 2017, and started the last 15 games of the season at left guard.

"Laken is a very talented player who has improved consistently since joining the team one week before last year's season opener," 49ers general manager John Lynch said.

"This offseason, his hard work and dedication paid off as he continued to progress and perform at a high level. We were confident we could work out a contract extension with Laken and we are fired up to get that done before training camp."

Tomlinson was selected in the first round (28th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Duke by Detroit and has appeared in 47 games (39 starts), plus one postseason start in his three-year career.

In 2016, he appeared in all 16 regular season games with the Lions (10 starts) and started the team's Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks.

A 26-year-old native of Chicago, Tomlinson made 52 career starts in four seasons at Duke and as a senior in 2014 he earned First-Team All-American honors and was named First-Team All-ACC for the second consecutive season.

--Former NFL cornerback Brandon Browner pleaded no contest to charges of battery and child endangerment in Southern California after being arrested on May 6, TMZ Sports reported.

It was Browner's third arrest in the last year.

The 33-year-old Browner was sentenced to probation, but because he already was on probation from a previous incident, he was sent to jail for violating his probation.

However, Los Angeles County officials released Browner after only two days because its jail was overcrowded.

Browner, a native of Los Angeles, was arrested on drug charges in October, and he also was arrested for making criminal threats in September.

In 2016, he was accused of assaulting his child's grandfather, although he did not face charges.

Browner made the Denver Broncos' roster as an undrafted rookie from Oregon State in 2005, played two seasons in Denver and four seasons with the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League.

Then he spent three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, one with the New England Patriots and one with the New Orleans Saints before finishing his career with a brief stint in Seattle in 2016.

--Referee Gene Steratore, who worked the Super Bowl in February and was involved in one of the most controversial on-field incidents in 2017, will retire, NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron announced.

Cameron Filipe of Football Zebras reported that Steratore will join CBS Sports as a rules analyst.

Steratore worked 12 playoff games since becoming an NFL official in 2003, including Super Bowl LII.

During a game between the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys last season, Steratore pulled out an index card and placed it between the football and chain stick to determine whether the Cowboys had achieved a crucial first down.

The Cowboys got their first down and went on to win the game, 20-17. Then-Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio protested and the NFL said later Steratore should have used his eyes and not the index card.

However, no further action was taken.

Last year, all 17 of the NFL's referees returned, but since the 2017 season ended, referees Steratore, Jeff Triplette, Ed Hochuli and Terry McAulay have retired.

Triplette will join ESPN's Monday Night Football team, and it has been reported that McAulay will land a job with NBC, but that has not been confirmed.

--Offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, the first of the New England Patriots' two first-round draft choices, has signed with the team, the team announced.

Wynn, selected with the 23rd pick of the draft out of Georgia, agreed to a four-year contract that projects to be worth about $11.4 million, according to the NFL's rookie wage scale.

Running back Sony Michel, the Patriots' other first-round pick at No. 31 who was Wynn's teammate at Georgia, is the only player in New England's 2018 draft class who remains unsigned.

Wynn played left guard and left tackle for the Bulldogs, and Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said he would get a look at left tackle as the team works to find a replacement for Nate Solder.

During the Patriots' minicamp, Wynn saw time at left guard because Joe Thuney was out following foot surgery.

--The Oakland Raiders signed fullback Ryan Yurachek and waived fullback Henry Poggi, the team announced on Friday.

The 6-3, 240-pound Yurachek, signed last month with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Marshall, but was waived last week.

Yurachek played tight end at Marshall, where he was an All-Conference USA selection last season and totaled 143 catches for 1,354 and 26 touchdowns in 51 games over four seasons.

Before signing Yurachek, the only fullbacks on the Raiders' roster were starter Keith Smith and Jamize Olawale.

Poggi signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan following rookie minicamp.

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