NFL Not Looking to Punish Ronald Darby
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - In the wake of Jameis Winston's three-game suspension for allegedly grabbing a female Uber drive in an inappropriate fashion, there was some concern that the Tampa Bay quarterback's friend and former college teammate at Florida State, Ronald Darby, might also get caught up in the NFL's investigation.
However, Darby, the Eagles' starting right cornerback, is not facing discipline stemming from the incident, a league spokesman confirmed to 973espn.com.
Winston is accused of grabbing his Uber diver's crotch while they were waiting at a drive-thru at a Mexican restaurant. The driver claimed that the Bucs' QB1 was her only passenger but Darby released a statement saying he was in an Uber with Winston on March 13, 2016, and claimed his friend did nothing inappropriate with the driver.
"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."
Darby was both right and wrong while trying to defend Winston because there were actually two Uber rides on the night in question.
The third “friend” hanging out with the QB that night was former Vanderbilt player Brandon Banks, who happens to be serving a 15-year sentence after being found guilty of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery in June of 2017 for his role in the gang rape of a female student at Vandy four years earlier.
A source close to Winston told 973espn.com that Banks was just an acquaintance of Winston and really Darby’s friend, so the finger-pointing has already started.
The shielding of Banks’ identity is obvious from the Winston camp because of the look of someone being accused of sexual assault partying with a convicted rapist isn’t exactly tailor-made crisis management.
Either way, Banks was of no help to Winston anyway because he claimed there were two Uber rides, one with all three (Winston, Darby, Banks) in which there was no incident and the other with Darby and Banks inserting a drunken Winston into the car before the alleged incident took place.
The alleged victim's attorney, John Clune, told the Tampa Bay Times that the NFL uncovered text-message data that corroborated Banks' account because it revealed Darby remained outside at the club while Winston was put in the Uber.
From Darby's perspective, he has a plausible deniability because there was a second Uber ride earlier in the night with all three men.
That said, the allegations against Winston were quite specific down to the time of the night, the attempt to get food at the Mexican restaurant and Darby was actually involved with getting Winston into the second Uber so it's hard to believe the Eagles' CB wasn't trying to help his friend and obfuscate the truth here.
While the league has closed the book on all of that, it could factor into Philadelphia's long-term plans when it comes to Darby, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2018.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen