After spending more than 15 months investigating Deshaun Watson, it looks like the NFL is closing in on a possible punishment for the Browns’ quarterback and it could be significant.
According to Washington Post, the NFL will argue that Watson deserves a “meaningful” suspension. Watson currently faces 24 civil lawsuits that include allegations ranging from sexual misconduct to sexual assault. Although Watson faces no criminal charges in those cases — two different grand juries in Texas have declined to press charges — he can still be punished by the league for violating the personal conduct policy.
A person in Watson’s camp told the Job that the NFL will likely argue that Watson deserves to be suspended for at least a full season. However, the Job noted that it’s hard to predict what the length of the suspension might look like, but that the NFL will almost certainly argue that it must be “meaningful” in length.
The fact that the league will ask for a significant suspension comes just days after Pro Football Talk reported this want Watson off the field until his lawsuits are resolved. The league investigated Watson since March 2021.
The reason the NFL has to argue for a “meaningful” suspension is that the league is not responsible for issuing the sanction. Under the old collective agreement, Roger Goodell had the authority to issue suspensions, but under the new collective agreement, that authority rests with a Disciplinary Officer, who is jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA. In Watson’s case, that officer is former U.S. District Judge, Judge Sue L. Robinson.
Once Robinson makes a decision on the case, either side will be free to appeal.
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While it’s still unclear when a decision might come, the Post reports that the NFL would like the entire process to be complete, including any potential appeals, by the start of training camp. With the Browns set to kick off training camp on July 27, that means Watson will likely know if he’ll be suspended at some point in the next six weeks.
The Browns quarterback met the media this week for the first time since March, andhe continued to insist that he had done nothing wrong.
“I was honest and told the truth,” Watson said. “I’ve never forced anyone, I’ve never assaulted anyone. I’ve said that from the start and will continue until all the facts are known.”
Watson currently faces 24 lawsuits, but that number could soon rise to 26. Plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee told CBS Sports earlier this week than two other lawsuits would probably be tabled in the near future. The fact that more lawsuits may be filed even after Watson is hit with a possible suspension complicates matters. In that case, the NFL could add a stipulation to any potential Watson sanction that would allow the league to impose additional discipline if further lawsuits were filed after the original discipline was issued.