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NFL investigating groping accusation against Jameis Winston

The NFL is investigating an allegation made against Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston for allegedly groping a female Uber driver, a league spokesman confirmed Friday to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

The woman accuses Winston of grabbing her crotch while driving him in Scottsdale, Arizona, in March 2016, according to a story published by BuzzFeed News.

Winston denies the allegation. His representatives told Rapoport there were several people in the car at the time and that Winston was sitting in the backseat. The woman told BuzzFeed that Winston was the only passenger in the car and that he was next to her in the passenger seat.

No police report was filed in the case, NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported on NFL Up to the Minute.

Winston issued the following statement Friday:

"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."

The Buccaneers also released a statement regarding the report: "We are in the process of obtaining further information regarding today's media report. We take these matters seriously and are fully supportive of the investigation that is being conducted by the NFL."

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darbyreleased a statement Sunday, stating he was one of three passengers in the car at the time, sitting with Winston in the backseat. Darby, who was a teammate of Winston's at Florida State, said the accusation against Winston is false.

"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 wrote. "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."

Darby was one of two Florida State players who witnessed a sexual encounter between Winston and a woman in 2012 that led to Winston being accused of rape. No charges were filed against Winston in that case and the quarterback later reached a settlement in a civil lawsuit filed by the accuser.

A league spokesman told NFL Network's Judy Battista that the NFL is in the "gathering info stage" of its investigation. Winston is not a candidate to be placed on the Reserve/Commissioner Exempt List because no charges have been filed against him, Wyche reported.

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