Ronald Darby

Suspension notes: Winston, Turbin, Colts, Darby

More information continues to trickle out about the suspensions handed down this week. One part of the Jameis Winston case that flew a bit under the radar was the involvement of Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby. When the allegations against Winston first surfaced last November, Darby came to Winston’s defense and insisted that Winston was innocent and said he was in the car during the Uber ride in question.

During the NFL’s investigation that followed, Darby reportedly backtracked. He told investigators he “no longer recalled” the Uber ride, per ProFootballTalk. Despite his initial defense of Winston and his now apparently conflicting statements, it looks like Darby is in the clear. An NFL spokesman told Aaron Kasinitz of PennLive that Darby “will not face punishment” from the league (Twitter link).

Here’s more on the recent suspensions:

  • Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star suspects that the Colts have known about Robert Turbin‘s four game suspension for a while. He notes that the team has deflected from talking about him all offseason and that the Colts have kept him away from the media (Twitter link).
  • Turbin’s suspension will cost him $235K according to Mike Chappell of Fox59. Chappell says “no one should understate the possible impact of Turbin’s absence” and writes that the Colts were counting on him to fill a big role with Frank Gore no longer with the team.
  • Between his base salary, portions of his signing bonus he’ll have to pay back, and loss of roster bonuses, Winston’s three game suspension will end up costing him a total of $1.14MM according to former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry (Twitter link). The total could rise to $1.42MM depending on how the roster bonuses are calculated, he notes.

Witness: Jameis Winston Was In Uber Vehicle Alone With Accuser

Another revelation came out of the Jameis Winston saga on Friday, and it could be viewed as damaging for the Buccaneers quarterback.

Mark Scruggs, attorney for a friend of Winston’s, Brandon Banks, said Winston did get into the car alone with the unnamed Uber driver that night in March 2016, when the accuser said Winston groped her. This came after the then-22-year-old quarterback was directed by friends to the Uber after being “unruly” at a Scottsdale, Ariz., nightclub. Scruggs said Banks saw an “intoxicated” Winston get into the car alone, which contradicts Ronald Darby‘s account that Winston was never alone with the driver, ESPN.com’s Paula Lavigne reports.

Banks, Winston and Darby were at the Scottsdale nightclub that night. This is the first time Banks, a former Vanderbilt football player, has been identified as being at the scene, Lavigne reports. Banks is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence after being found guilty of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual assault in June 2017 for an incident that occurred at Vanderbilt in 2013. Banks was awaiting trial in March of 2016.

Scruggs told ESPN that Winston, Darby and Banks were in a separate Uber that night, but that the driver who made the accusation against Winston was the one who picked him up from the nightclub. Banks did not confirm the driver’s account, though, since he was not in that particular Uber car. The driver said she and Winston were the only passengers.

It appeared that Winston was trying to lay this on Brandon,” Scruggs said, via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, regarding his client’s reason for coming forward. “They were together that night. They took an Uber to a club, the three of them did, and Brandon said nothing whatsoever happened while the three of them were in the Uber. … For whatever reason, they felt they needed to put (Winston), escort him into an Uber so he could go home on his own. There’s two different Uber rides is what we’re talking about.”

Winston’s camp said the Uber driver was confused as to the number of people in the vehicle, and Darby said last year that he and Winston were in the backseat. The NFL is expected to suspend Winston for at least three games and did not view Darby’s account as entirely credible.

Some with the Buccaneers, and some close to Winston outside of the team, are “struggling to fathom” that he groped an Uber driver, Mike Jones of USA Today notes. But considering Winston’s past, most notably the 2012 rape accusation, the new information coming out about the March 2016 night makes it more likely Winston will serve at least a three-game suspension. And it could cloud his future with the Bucs.

Tampa Bay picked up the 24-year-old passer’s fifth-year option in May, but that $20.9MM 2019 salary is guaranteed for injury only. Now that he’s expected to miss the Bucs’ first three games, there will be immense pressure on the former No. 1 overall pick to shake the on-field inconsistency and while obviously avoid any additional off-field trouble.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston‘s suspension is not yet final, but the Buccaneers quarterback is expected to be banned for at least the first three games of this season. And the NFL looks to have determined the Ronald Darby explanation didn’t hold water, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (video link).

Shortly after the unnamed accuser’s account of Winston groping her surfaced last November, Darby, who played with the former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida State, came forward with an explanation to help Winston. The veteran cornerback said he was in the car with Winston, with both Seminoles-turned-NFLers sitting in the backseat the entire time during the ride.

There were three of us in the car, not just one as has been reported,” Darby said in November. “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.”

However, the NFL did not ultimately accept Darby’s explanation. The investigation, Garafolo reports, determined Darby was not in the vehicle during the entire trip. It’s not certain when Winston and Darby’s paths crossed that night in Arizona, but Garafolo reports the NFL believes there were multiple legs to this trip and does not believe both Winston and Darby were together in the car the whole time.

The league also examined electronic communications from the parties involved in the alleged incident that night in March 2016, with Garafolo noting this likely played a key role in Winston’s expected suspension.

As of now, Winston would be in line to miss a difficult part of Tampa Bay’s schedule. The Saints, Eagles and Steelers are the first three teams on the Bucs’ docket. Garafolo confirmed a Thursday-night report that more games could be tacked onto this based on certain conditions. The Bucs will face the Bears, Falcons and Browns from Weeks 4-6.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Spring Practice Notes: Jets, Darby, Ebron

Now that mandatory minicamps have wrapped up around the league and players have returned home for a few weeks, the NFL will experience something of a lull until we get closer to the start of training camp in July. In the past couple of days, however, beat writers have shared some lessons learned during spring practices, offered some insight as to what OTAs and minicamp revealed about the upcoming season, and discussed some questions that remain unanswered. So let’s dive right in:

  • Terrelle Pryor‘s injury concerns have been well-documented, but as Darryl Slater of NJ.com observes, the Jets are also dealing with injuries to CB Morris Claiborne and OLB Jordan Jenkins. Both Claiborne and Jenkins are expected to be ready for the start of training camp, while the status of Pryor and starting free safety Marcus Maye is still up in the air. Slater also wonders who will start at OLB alongside Jenkins. David Bass and Josh Martin are candidates, as is Lorenzo Mauldin, though Slater suggests Mauldin is on the roster bubble.
  • Slater also indicates that Henry Anderson may have the leg up in the battle for the Jets‘ starting defensive end position opposite Leonard Williams — New York desperately needs someone to take double teams away from Williams — and that Andre Roberts appears to be leading the competition for Gang Green’s punt returner job. He adds that wideout Chad Hansen has impressed this spring after being a non-factor in his rookie campaign last year.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com also likes what he sees from Hansen, and he says TE Neal Sterling and RB Elijah McGuire are other under-the-radar players to impress for the Jets this spring. Sam Darnold, meanwhile, is very much on the radar, and Cimini says Darnold has done nothing to suggest he cannot be a quality starter in the NFL.
  • The most important lesson learned during the Eagles‘ spring practices, per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, is that Carson Wentz is progressing in his recovery from an ACL tear and could be ready to go in Week 1. However, as Berman points out, the defending champs have plenty of injury concerns outside of Wentz, though no key players appear at risk of missing any regular season time at this point.
  • Berman also writes that Jay Ajayi is the Eagles’ unquestioned No. 1 running back — in stark contrast to the summer of 2017, when the team was emphasizing a committee approach to the offensive backfield — and he names De’vante Bausby, Nate Gerry, and Dallas Goedert as young talents who have stood out in the spring. Gerry, a 2017 fifth-rounder who converted from collegiate safety to professional linebacker, could compete for a starting LB job this year, Berman says.
  • Speaking of Bausby, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com is also impressed with the 25-year-old’s work this spring, which may be enough to allow the Eagles to trade Ronald Darby.
  • Seahawks‘ 2018 seventh-round pick Alex McGough stood out this spring and has a legitimate chance to be Russell Wilson‘s backup this year, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Condotta also notes that Seattle’s first-round choice, Rashaad Penny, has looked the part and has also shown improvement in his pass-blocking technique, which will help him see more of the field this year.
  • TE Eric Ebron has been perhaps the most impressive newcomer for the Colts this spring, per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, who also says 2018 fourth-rounder Nyheim Hines was the most exciting rookie to watch. Hines, a running back from NC State, has the explosiveness and versatility to thrive in new head coach Frank Reich‘s scheme.
  • Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com says Harold Landry, the Titans‘ second-round draft choice this year, is living up to his draft pedigree and that, while he may have a hard time unseating veterans Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo as a starting OLB, he should see plenty of action as a situational pass rusher to begin his career. Wyatt also says Tennessee’s cornerbacks have been the most impressive position group of the spring.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Eagles, Johnson

It was reported by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network on Thursday that Aaron Rodgers was looking to have more control over his future, perhaps in the form of an out clause in his next contract with the Packers. Now more information has been revealed by Garafolo and his colleague Ian Rapoport (Twitter links).

Garafolo followed up his original report by saying there won’t be an “automatic trigger” to void years of the contract like some had speculated, but that Rodgers was “looking for more player control over his deal than the average NFL contract.”

Rapoport added that he was hearing “A proposed contract would include a series of player options.” As Rapoport notes, it’s a fascinating situation. After Kirk Cousins became the first quarterback to ever get a multi-year fully guaranteed deal, it isn’t surprising that more of the league’s top signal-callers will be looking for unconventional contracts. For years, contracts in the NFL more or less all followed the same rigid process that was very much controlled by the teams and owners, a dynamic that appears to now finally be shifting. Whatever contract extension Rodgers does end up signing, it’ll likely make him the NFL’s highest paid player.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood is a “long-shot” to make the 53-man roster, according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. Smallwood played a big role as a rookie in 2016, carrying the ball 77 times for 312 yards, but saw his role greatly diminished last season. Now Shorr-Parks thinks the Eagles’ suddenly crowded running backs room will end up pushing Smallwood off the team altogether, saying “At this point Smallwood is facing a steep uphill battle to make the roster.”
  • Shorr-Parks also thinks cornerback Ronald Darby may not be on the team much longer. He writes that the Eagles have been impressed with fourth-year undrafted cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who’s been running with the first-team during OTAs. Shorr-Parks says “The Eagles won’t cut Darby, but a strong training camp from Bausby could put Darby on the trade block.”
  • The Lions have apparently been impressed with second-round running back Kerryon Johnson, and envision him playing a big role as a rookie. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions see Johnson as a three-down back. If Johnson is playing the majority of snaps, with recently signed LeGarrette Blount in the fold, it could mean the end of the Ameer Abdullah era in Detroit. Abdullah has been mentioned as a possible cut-candidate by Lions reporters all offseason, and Johnson’s emergence could seal his fate.

 

Eagles CB Daryl Worley Arrested

New Eagles cornerback Daryl Worley was arrested in Philadelphia at around 6am this morning, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter). As Rapoport notes in a separate tweet, Worley was passed out inside a vehicle that was blocking a highway. When police arrived, Worley became combative with them and was ultimately tasered. A gun was recovered at the scene.

Philadelphia acquired Worley earlier this offseason in a trade that sent wide receiver Torrey Smith to the Panthers. Smith, who was far from productive in his first and only season with the Eagles, had a $5MM option that Philadelphia was widely expected to decline, which would have made him a free agent. However, they managed to swing a trade for him, and Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that Worley’s track record of bad behavior is what allowed them to do so. Indeed, Worley pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault while in college, and McLane says that the West Virginia product had a “rep” in Carolina as well.

Last season, Worley’s second in the league, he appeared in 15 games for the Panthers and started all but one of those contests. He tallied 63 tackles, one sack, and ten passes defensed. He also started Carolina’s lone playoff game last season, registering six tackles and a pass defensed in the team’s loss to the Saints in the wild card round. The advanced metrics did not love his work, though; he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 89 ranked cornerback last season.

The team is aware of the arrest and noted that it is still in the process of gathering information (Twitter link). Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets it is likely, though not certain, that Philadelphia will release Worley, and that discussions are still ongoing. Bowen adds in a separate tweet that Worley’s arrest makes it much less likely that the team trades fellow corner Ronald Darby prior to the draft, which was looking like a real possibility.

The Panthers selected Worley in the third round of the 2016 draft. He grew up in the Philadelphia area, and per McLane (via Twitter), he was specifically asked at his introductory news conference if playing in his hometown would create unnecessary distractions. The Eagles, at least, certainly have a distraction on their hands to go along with the Michael Bennett drama.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ronald Darby Issues Statement On Jameis Winston

The Uber driver who has accused Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston of groping her in March 2016 has said that she and Winston were alone in her vehicle at the time of the alleged incident, whereas Winston’s representatives say there were several people in the car, and that Winston was in the backseat. Now, Eagles cornerback (and Winston’s former collegiate teammate) Ronald Darby has spoken out on Winston’s behalf, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports.

Jameis Winston (vertical)

Darby, whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with Buffalo this offseason — but who has only suited up for one game this season due to an ankle injury — issued a statement this morning indicating that he was one of the other passengers in the vehicle. He said:

“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. 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 and Winston were teammates at Florida State in 2013 and 2014, and both were selected in the 2015 draft (Winston, of course, was the first overall pick in that draft, while Darby was taken with the 50th overall selection). And, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes, this marks the second time that Darby has witnessed an incident that resulted in Winston’s being accused of sexual misconduct. Darby was in Winston’s apartment the night Winston was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow FSU student in 2012.

Schefter also reports that the NFL has still not informed the NFL Players Association that there is now an investigation of one of its players, which the league is required to do. While everyone knows that the investigation has been launched, and the league’s informing the NFLPA of the same is largely just a formality, the fact that it has not been done is an inauspicious start to what many expect will be another messy, drawn-out process.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Rumors: McCloughan, Giants, Rowe

Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan filed a grievance against Washington for the balance of his contract, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, and in-house litigation is moving forward. The Redskins refused to pay McCloughan after firing him, alleging that they had cause for doing so (which is believed to be McCloughan’s struggles with alcoholism). McCloughan’s contract requires him to file a grievance with the league rather than file suit in an independent court, which is standard among contracts for front-office employees and coaches, who are not represented by a union.

Now let’s take a look at more notes from the league’s east divisions:

  • James Kratch of NJ.com believes Giants O-lineman Justin Pugh will be looking for $11MM annually when he hits free agency after the season, with around $30MM guaranteed. Kratch adds that Big Blue will be interested in re-signing Orleans Darkwa, who is also a free agent at the end of the year, though the club will not break the bank for him.
  • Giants head coach Ben McAdoo might have ceded play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, but as Howie Kussoy of the New York Post rights, McAdoo retains “veto power” if he does not approve of a play that Sullivan calls.
  • Eagles CB Ronald Darby practiced this past week for the first time since the ugly ankle injury that he sustained in Week 1, and while his absence as not hurt Philadelphia yet, the team needs him back on the field. As Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, there is no exact timetable for Darby’s return to game action, but it should only be a matter of time at this point (though he is not expected to play tomorrow night against Washington).
  • Patriots CB Eric Rowe is set to miss tonight’s game against Atlanta with a groin injury, meaning he will have played less than 21.6 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. As Mike Reiss of ESPN.com points out, If Rowe plays in more than 50 percent of New England’s defensive snaps this season, the team will send a 2018 third-round draft choice to the Eagles to complete the trade that sent Rowe to the Pats. However, if he plays in fewer than 50 percent of the snaps, New England will send a fourth-rounder to Philadelphia, so it is looking increasingly likely that it will be a fourth-round pick heading the Eagles’ way in 2018.

Eagles’ Ronald Darby Has Dislocated Ankle

Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby suffered a dislocated ankle during Sunday’s victory against the Redskins, but things are not as bad as they could have been. An MRI on Monday morning showed that Darby did not suffer any major ligament damage, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The dislocated ankle will keep him out for 4-6 weeks.Ronald Darby (Vertical)

Without Darby, a thin Philadelphia secondary now becomes a even thinner with Patrick Robinson likely joining Jalen Mills as a starter in base packages. The Eagles played with only three active cornerbacks Sunday, relying on the ability of their safeties — including Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins — to moonlight at corner if needed. Going forward, Rasul Douglas and/or Dexter McDougle will likely be active.

Other options could be in play, as well, including the potential promotion of practice squad corner C.J. Smith. Alternatively, the Eagles could hypothetically look to re-sign free agents Leodis McKelvin or Ron Brooks, both of whom were released earlier this year. Neither played well for Philadelphia in 2016, but both are familiar with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz‘s scheme.

Darby is a newcomer to the Eagles’ defensive backfield, as the Birds acquired him from the Bills last month in exchange for a third-round pick and receiver Jordan Matthews. A former second-round draft choice, Darby has been up-and-down through two NFL seasons, but had been poised to serve as Philadelphia’s No. 1 cornerback.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Rumors: Watkins, Elliott, Eagles

Sammy Watkins addressed his contract situation for the first time as a Rams employee on Saturday. Rams GM Les Snead said Friday he hopes to sign the recent trade acquisition to an extension and avoid a one-and-done scenario for the former first-round pick. But it doesn’t sound like Watkins is especially anxious to discuss a new deal just yet. The former Bills No. 1 target may be willing to take his chances he can enhance his stock this season.

I gotta handle my business and control what I can control. If I go out there and have a year that I’m expecting to have, then we can talk contract,” Watkins said, via Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. “But I still gotta go out there and do my job and let those guys handle the paperwork, contracts, numbers.”

Watkins is a free agent after this season. Plenty of dominoes could fall to rearrange the marketplace between now and free agency, though. Joining Watkins as walk-year receivers are DeAndre Hopkins, Jarvis Landry, Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor, Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson and Davante Adams. Extensions for players in this group will affect the others. But Watkins is also coming off an injury-plagued season, so the 24-year-old pass-catcher staying healthy is probably his top obstacle in the path of a possible eight-figure-per-year deal. On that front, Watkins said (per Gonzalez, on Twitter) his foot is “100 percent healthy.”

Here’s the latest from the NFC:

  • The advisors who played a key role in the Ezekiel Elliott investigation did not recommend a specific suspension to Roger Goodell, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports. The commissioner handed out the six-game ban to the Cowboys running back in accordance with the December 2014 adjustment to the personal conduct policy that mandated a minimum six-game suspension for domestic violence. While Josh Brown managed to receive only a one-game ban for his alleged domestic-abuse incidents, the NFL followed its revised protocols in the Elliott case.
  • One off-field allegation appears to be in Elliott’s past, however. The accusation from a man who said Elliott broke his nose at a bar in July is closed, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said (via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, on Twitter). McCarthy added the caveat of new evidence potentially prompting the league to revisit the matter, but for now, it’s closed. Local authorities closed this investigation shortly after the alleged incident occurred, with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk pointing out the victim could not be located.
  • Carson Wentz did not appear to be pleased by the Eagles trading Matthews to the Bills. The second-year quarterback met with Howie Roseman just before news of the trade broke. “I spoke with Howie shortly before it was news. He told me is was already done,” Wentz said, per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. “He obviously knew how I felt with Jordan being one of my best friends. On the personal side it’s tough. He knew that, he was prepared for that and I told him that.” Matthews has been Philadelphia’s most reliable receiver over the past two seasons, leading Philly wideouts in receiving yards by comfortable margins in each. Shorr-Parks adds in a separate piece the Eagles will regret this trade. Of the players the Eagles are projected to start now, only Nelson Agholor is controlled past 2017. Shorr-Parks notes Jeffery’s injury history, Torrey Smith‘s rough 2016 season and the uncertainty surrounding Agholor don’t provide much certainty for this corps.
  • The draft choice the Eagles will receive in the Matthews/Ronald Darby swap is not a conditional third-rounder, as it was initially reported on the NFL transaction wire. The Eagles will send the Bills their third-round pick in 2018, Jeff McLane of Philly.com tweets.