A new eyewitness account from one of Peyton Manning's former Tennessee teammates has added a new twist to the 1996 incident involving the quarterback and then-Volunteers trainer Jamie Naughright.
The MMQB's Robert Klemko reported Wednesday on what Greg Johnson, a linebacker and roommate of Manning's, witnessed in February 1996, which supports Manning's side of the story:
I won't speak to my opinion of Ms. Naughright or of Peyton. I was in the training room fairly often. I don't know why I was in there that day.
Saxon walks in, and Peyton was the kind of guy who had to be friendly with everyone; he wanted to include everyone, from his teammates to the cross country guy. He says hey to Saxon and pulls down the back of his shorts, and I saw one butt cheek, and then he pulled his pants up. And Jamie said something like, 'Aw, you're an ass.' Then I left. Thought nothing of it.
It just wasn't a significant moment in my life.
Johnson refers to Malcolm Saxon, who was the only other previous witness whose account of the events is public knowledge. Saxon wrote a letter in 2002 that served as part of the lawsuit Naughright filed against Manning and seemed to support her version of what happened.
According to Klemko, since Johnson sometimes serves the role of an undercover operative as a law enforcement officer, he was initially reluctant to come forward with his version of the story.
However, on Thursday, ESPN's T.J. Quinn reported another player, Kevin Horne, who was shown by court documents to be in the dressing room at the time, refuted Johnson's claims:
"I never saw him," said Horne, who has never spoken publicly about the incident. "I saw that story and I'm like, 'Greg Johnson?' I like Greg, but, sorry, I don't remember that."
"I didn't think it was a story 20 years ago," he told Outside the Lines. "I can't believe it's one now."
Johnson told Quinn he understands why someone would be skeptical of his recollections:
"Of course. That's natural," he said. "And all I can do is say, 'Hey, I was there, this is what I saw,' and go on.
"And I'm not saying that what they remember is wrong or anything, I'm just telling you what I remember."
Manning has said the incident was nothing more than a "mooning," while Naughright alleged in her lawsuit that Manning placed the "area in between testicles" directly on her face, per Klemko.
Johnson wasn't deposed in the lawsuit because he was overseas serving in the Marine Corps. He told Klemko he was distracted by what was happening while he was deployed following the September 11 terrorist attacks and eventual commencement of the Iraq War.
Documents and testimonies reviewed by The MMQB didn't reveal any clear distinction of any other witnesses, nor did they specify whether Manning, Naughright and Saxon were alone when the incident occurred.
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