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Buccaneers never talked to Jameis Winston accuser because "they knew what she would say"

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to draft Jameis Winston after what they called a thorough investigation. One in which they interviewed over 75 people to try to get to the bottom of Winston's character: was he simply immature? And then there's that other incident: a rape accusation for which he was never criminally charged, but now faces a civil suit.

Over the past few weeks, several reports have noted that the Bucs never talked to the person who accused him. Jason Licht and Lovie Smith explained this decision to Peter King of The MMQB, but this is hardly a satisfactory answer.

So why didn't the Bucs, who talked to more than 75 people as part of the organization's investigation into Winston's character, talk to the woman who accused him of attacking her, Erica Kinsman? Did the Bucs just want the investigation to be finished, and to say what the team wanted it to say?

"That's not the case," Licht said adamantly. "We are not talking about this now ... but we read the depositions. We knew what she was going to say. This was a thorough investigation. We were not going to mistake charisma for character."

This is odd at minimum and disturbing at worst. What's the downside in talking to the accuser? Were the Bucs afraid that they'd find her more credible than they expected? Sure, she likely says the same thing she would have said all along -- but are you really going to let your expectations, rather than your investigations, rule your decisions?

Lovie Smith said after they drafted Winston that he trusts his "instincts on people to know who [they] are getting." Apparently he didn't trust his instincts to judge the person accusing Winston, though. And his answer is no more reassuring than Licht's.

"But then there was a serious accusation we had to come to grips with. [The accusation that he sexually assaulted a Florida State student, Kinsman.] That was investigated three times. No charges were filed. I understand something happened. But when do you get to the point where you say, ‘We have to let the courts decide, and we abide by their ruling?' They did not charge Jameis with anything. And at that point, I am going to make the judgment that I am not going to hold this incident against him."

This sounds like more like a cop-out than an actual investigation. We can probably never know what actually happened that night. Winston was never criminally charged, which means that in terms of criminal prosecution, this incident is certainly behind him. You could take a principled stance and say that because the answer is unknowable, Winston should be treated always and everywhere as entirely innocent.

But then if the Bucs decide to do that, they don't get to hide behind a thorough investigation when they didn't even try to get the other side of the story, in person. The Buccaneers decided to talk to more than 75 people to investigate Jameis Winston's character, but they refused to talk to the one person with the most damning accusation. The only person besides Winston who actually knows what happened that night. I don't see how you can call that a complete investigation.

At this point, the Bucs are trying to have it both ways: they're selling the idea that Winston was so thoroughly vetted, they know exactly who they're getting. And at the same time, they're hiding behind the fact that he was never criminally charged to justify their lack of a thorough investigation into a rape accusation.