The primary headline this week regarding quarterback Jameis Winston arose from his about-face regarding the notion that he shoplifted crab legs from a grocery store in 2014. Setting aside for now the question of whether Winston’s latest version of the events is accurate (Deadspin has made a persuasive case that it isn’t), there’s more to the story.
Specifically, there’s more to the story of how the story emerged. Specifically, Winston initially omitted the story about the crab legs when generally asked about getting in trouble in the past.
In the episode of ESPN’s Draft Academy during which Winston provided an alternative version of the crab-leg caper, Winston and quarterback Bryce Petty met with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch as part of the preparation process for interviews at the Scouting Combine.
Harbaugh at one point asked Winston, “Any discipline when you were in high school?”
“Yes sir,” Winston said. “I was disciplined for one game against John Carroll for laughing at my coach ’cause he cried, and he felt that I disrespected him.”
“What about in college?” Harbaugh said.
“In college, I got disciplined for a game against Clemson for standing up on a table and saying something wrong,” Winston said. “That’s the only time I got disciplined in college.”
“Any encounters with the police?” Harbaugh said.
Winston then explained the incident involving a BB gun fight while hunting squirrels.
“The police had rolled up on us and thought I had an assault rifle,” Winston said.
Winston said nothing about the crab legs, for which he was cited for shoplifting and suspended from the Florida State baseball team. Fisch pointed out the failure to mention the crab legs, and Winston reacted as if he’d forgotten about it.
“That’s like the elephant in the room for you,” Fisch said. “I mean, everyone’s going to want to know what happened. So don’t like by accident only talk about the BB gun and your high school coach crying and forget about the fact that everybody on SportsCenter read about that incident. Because then it looks like you’re covering it up or you’re hiding it.”
“I screwed up, I f–ked up,” Harbaugh suggested as a quick way to deal with the situation. “I f–ked up, learned from it. You know, be serious as a heart attack.”
Then the alternative story emerged.
“How am I supposed to handle like if I just got them for free?” Winston said.
And that’s when Winston offered up the same version that he undoubtedly later gave to anyone from the NFL who asked him the question at the Scouting Combine or elsewhere.
For teams that already have decided that they’re comfortable with Winston, this surely won’t change their minds. For teams that already have decided they’re not, it definitely won’t. But for anyone still on the fence, maybe it will have an impact.