NFL teams are buying what Florida State's Jameis Winston is selling when it comes to his new explanation for the crab legs incident he was involved in last year.
Winston, the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, received a citation for shoplifting last April for taking crab legs from a Publix grocery store in Tallahassee. In a statement issued after the incident last year, Winston said he "made a terrible mistake for which I'm taking full responsibility. In a moment of youthful ignorance, I walked out of the store without paying for one of my items."
However, Winston now says that he received the items for free, via a "hook-up" from a store employee. Winston made the comments in an episode of "ESPN's Draft Academy" that aired Tuesday but was taped before the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He indicated that he wasn't alone in receiving free items, which raised questions about whether other FSU players were involved.
Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher said Wednesday that FSU compliance personnel believe it was an "isolated incident." A spokeswoman for Publix has said its investigation of the incident "found no information that would corroborate the story that there was any arrangement for Jameis or any other FSU athlete to get any product for free," and FSU AD Stan Wilcox released a statement Wednesday saying the details disclosed by Winston "were not previously known to the university."
So whom to believe in all of this?
NFL teams think Winston is telling the truth, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
"My understanding is that Jameis Winston is telling teams ... that he had a hook-up at Publix," Rapoport said Wednesday on NFL Network's "Total Access". "My understanding is also that he was covering up for whoever else joined him in receiving free items, in this instance crab legs.
"I've talked to a lot of teams that have done a lot of research on him, and he is incredibly believable. No one I have spoken with believes the (alleged) shoplifting is a red flag. In fact, the more time you spend with him, what you hear from teams, and especially coaches, is that they really like him and believe him."
The incident was embarrassing for Winston, and it added to concerns about his off-the-field behavior. Despite the issues, Winston is still the presumptive No. 1 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it seems as though he has done a good job in downplaying concerns about his character in the run-up to the draft.
While some might have thought the resurfacing of an off-field issue from Winston's past could damage his draft stock, it appears he will come away from this one unscathed.