Jameis Winston reportedly to be suspended multiple games to start the 2018 season

The Buccaneers have one of the toughest opening stretches of any team in the NFL this season and it looks like things are about to get slightly tougher, because they're not going to have their starting quarterback. 

According to ESPN.com, the NFL is planning to suspend Jameis Winston for the first three games of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The looming suspension means that Winston would potentially miss games against New Orleans (away), Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. However, ESPN was careful to note that the circumstances surrounding the suspension "could lead to an increase or decrease of the three games." Also, ESPN noted that Winston has yet to be informed of the potential suspension. 

The Buccaneers quarterback has been under investigation by the NFL for the past seven months over an incident that allegedly occurred more than two years ago. Back in November, an Uber driver alleged that Winston grabbed her crotch while the two were waiting in the drive-thru of a Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 13, 2016. 

The driver told BuzzFeed News that Winston "reached over" and "just grabbed my crotch." The driver also added that Winston kept his hand in place for three to five seconds and didn't remove it until she asked him, "What's up with that?"

Winston has denied the accusations

"I believe the driver was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her," Winston said in November. "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."

After the accusations came out, Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby quickly jumped to Winston's defense. Darby, who was a teammate with Winston at Florida State, said that he was in the Uber with Winston on the night of the incident and that nothing inappropriate happened. 

One thing that's not clear yet is whether or not the NFL found any proof that Winston was guilty of the allegations. The thing with the personal conduct policy is that even if he didn't do anything, he could still be punished. 

As noted by ProFootballTalk, Winston would be in violation of the policy if he knew about the allegations before they went public, but didn't tell the NFL. Basically, it's his responsibility to alert the NFL of any possible pending allegations in a timely manner, assuming that he knew about them.

From the personal conduct policy:

"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," it reads. "Clubs are expected to educate their employees on this obligation to report. Club reports should be made to NFL Security... Failure to report an incident will be grounds for disciplinary action."

Based on the fact that Winston allegedly had his Uber account suspended in March 2016 following the incident, he could have relayed that fact to the NFL, and the league could have looked into it then. 

Jeff Cameron, an ESPN radio host in Tallahassee who attended Winston's draft day party in 2015, reported on Wednesday that Winston's camp was expecting a suspension. 

"What he'll be suspended over is a failure to report and that's frustrating," Cameron said Wedneday, via JoeBucsfan. "The Winston camp is prepared for the NFL to levy a suspension of some kind. The thought from the Winston camp is that would be a maximum of three games."

Our Jamey Eisenberg broke down the Fantasy implications of the news here.  

Once the suspension becomes official, that means the Buccaneers will likely turn over the team's offensive reigns to Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran quarterback, who went 2-1 as the Bucs starter while Winston was out with an injury last season, re-signed with the team in March and will likely be their Week 1 starter against New Orleans. 

Of course, it might not matter who the quarterback is for the Bucs during their first three games of the season. According to NFL research, Tampa will be facing the toughest first three games of a season that any team has ever faced in the Super Bowl era. 

The good news for the Buccaneers is that there doesn't seem to be a huge drop off in projected wins with Fitzpatrick starting in place of Winston, According to the computer over at SportsLine, the Bucs projected win total went from 6.3 with Winston to 6.0 with Fitzpatrick. The team's chance of making the playoffs also took a small hit with the suspension, going from nine percent to six percent. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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