July 19th, 2022 at 4:15pm CST by Sam Robinson
The NFL’s defining offseason story continues to head toward its conclusion, though disciplinary officer Sue Robinson’s decision should be expected to be the first of a few involving Deshaun Watson. Appeals and a potential legal fight may well be up next to determine the punishment for the Browns quarterback. Here is the latest on the Watson front:
- Robinson’s decision is not expected to emerge this week, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets. The post-hearing briefs were not due until July 12, and while an announcement this week would clear the way for this saga’s next chapter to begin before the Browns break for training camp, the retired judge has been expected to take her time and issue a detailed report. This delay opens the door to the Browns not knowing how long Watson will be suspended until well after camp begins. Appeals could push this process close to Week 1, while a court fight would likely drag the matter into the regular season. Recent NFL suspensions that went to court led to Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott playing after receiving injunctions, but both players eventually served their original-length bans.
- The NFL has made its push for a full-season suspension clear, with three sources informing USA Today’s Mike Jones the league’s long-rumored intent did, in fact, come to light during the three-day June hearing.
- Continuing the roundabout news cycles associated with potential Watson punishment, Robinson’s ruling could put Roger Goodell and NFL brass to the test. A two- to eight-game ban stands to be the most likely outcome, a source informed Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. This verdict would likely require the NFL standing down regarding an appeal. While overturning an independent arbitrator’s decision in this disciplinary process’ first go-round would further damage the NFL’s relationship with the NFLPA, the league would run into more bad PR if a two- or four-game ban came to pass. This is, however, the second report this week to predict the 26-year-old QB playing in 2022.
- Part of the reason for Watson’s side to hope for lighter punishment: the NFL’s case. Anderson adds the NFL focused on four accusedrs’ accounts (Twitter link) — based on what has been uncovered during the league’s lengthy investigation — instead of the previously reported five during the hearing. Multiple women still suing Watson accused him of sexual assault, but Jones notes the NFL’s presentation did not include examples of sexual assault, force or violence. The attorney for the accusers, Tony Buzbee, was unsurprised by this, indicating the majority of Watson’s accusers allege the quarterback committed “indecent exposure and assault; that is, touching without consent.” The CBA calls for a baseline suspension of six games for “sexual assault involving physical force,” pushing Watson’s alleged misconduct into a gray area with regards to league punishment.
- The NFLPA indeed referenced minimal or no punishment given to owners Dan Snyder, Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones during the hearing. The NFL, in its post-hearing brief, countered that by indicating the union’s issues with owner discipline (or lack thereof) are irrelevant to the Watson matter, Anderson adds (on Twitter).
- If Watson ends up receiving a suspension that covers much of 2022, the Browns plan to sign a backup quarterback. They are not expected to pursue a starter-caliber passer, with the team confidence Jacoby Brissett can handle those responsibilities during Watson’s absence.