Last night, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor opened his post–first round press conference with a statement. “First off, I am aware there is a story about Jackson Carman today. I don’t have any comment on that.”
A few hours before the draft kicked off, Defector published a story about a rape allegation reported to Clemson police against Bengals guard Jackson Carman. A 17-year-old girl filed the report in May of 2020, one year before the Bengals selected Carman with their 2021 second-round pick. The incident she reported took place in May of 2018, when she was 15 and Carman was 18. In September of 2020, the county solicitor decided not to charge Carman.
I spoke to 13 employees of NFL clubs (none affiliated with the Bengals) and all 13 said they knew about the rape allegation, but not until early April of last year, late in the draft process. Four NFL teams (Seahawks, Jets, Bears, and Texans) requested the police report from Clemson police, as did three independent investigators working for NFL teams. None of the investigators would reveal which teams they worked for.
At the scouting combine in March, I asked Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin if he ever outsourced any background work to consulting firms or investigators during the draft process. He said no, and that his scouts did all their own work.
The allegation and investigation were never covered by the media, so neither Carman nor the Bengals staff have ever been asked about it by any reporters. The Bengals did not respond to our request for comment about what they knew, and did not respond to a request to interview Carman.
So the question remained: What did the Bengals know about Jackson Carman?
Despite Taylor's opening no-comment, a reporter brought it up again as the final question of this press conference on Thursday night.
"Was the team aware of any sexual assault allegations involving Jackson pre-draft?" a reporter asked.