NFL ‘reviewing’ ruling of 6-game suspension for Deshaun Watson

Field Level Media

August 01, 2022 at 9:22 pm.

A former U.S. district judge ruled Monday that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson should be suspended six games without pay for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy.

Judge Sue L. Robinson informed the NFL and NFLPA of her decision in a 15-page conclusion. However, the decision is not yet final.

While the NFLPA vowed Sunday night not to appeal Robinson’s decision, the league has three days to appeal the ruling. The NFL released a statement later Monday, thanking Robinson for her “diligence and professionalism,” adding that it is “reviewing” her ruling.

“In light of her findings, the league is reviewing Judge Robinson’s imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a determination on next steps,” the NFL said in the statement.

If the league appeals, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — or a designee — would issue a “full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

Robinson wrote that though the penalty is the “most significant ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct, Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.”

According to CBS Sports, the NFL was pushing for an indefinite suspension that would last through the 2022 season. The NFLPA and Watson have vowed to sue if he is suspended for the season.

Robinson found that there wasn’t enough evidence to support a season-long or indefinite banishment.

“The NFL may be a ‘forward-facing’ organization, but it is not necessarily a forward-looking one,” Robinson wrote. “Just as the NFL responded to violent conduct after a public outcry, so it seems the NFL is responding to a yet another public outcry about Mr. Watson’s conduct.

“At least in the former situation, the policy was changed and applied proactively,” she wrote. “Here, the NFL is attempting to impose a more dramatic shift in its culture without the benefit of fair notice to — and consistency of consequence for — those in the NFL subject to its policy.”

If the suspension stands, Watson would be eligible to return for the Browns’ Oct. 23 game at Baltimore. Watson would stand to lose $345,000 in game checks off his 2022 base salary of $1.035 million. His base salary jumps to $46 million in 2023, when his extension with the Browns kicks in.

Robinson’s punishment ruling doesn’t include a fine, per reports. It also dictates that Watson not have massages other than those prescribed by the Browns.

“We respect Judge Robinson’s decision, and at the same time, empathize and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We know Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him.”

While also saying he would respect the decision, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told media members Monday afternoon that Watson “is working to be the best version of himself. He’s committed to that. He has said it publicly. He’s said that privately. And I believe that.”

Stefanski shared that his initial plan is to start veteran backup Jacoby Brissett in Watson’s absence, but added, “We have a couple plans. We’re going to stick to it until we get more information.”

Watson, 26, stood accused of sexual assault and inappropriate misconduct during massage sessions that took place between March 2020 and March 2021.

Watson settled 23 of the 24 sustained lawsuits he faced, including three announced on Monday by plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee. That includes a settlement with Ashley Solis, the first to sue Watson and the first to go public.

Though two grand juries in Texas decided not to pursue criminal charges against Watson, the NFL has been conducting an independent investigation to determine whether he violated its personal conduct policy.

Robinson’s ruling was made following three days of testimony in Delaware in June.

The Browns traded three first-round picks for Watson in March and signed him to a five-year, $230 million contract — with all money fully guaranteed. They have said Jacoby Brissett would the starting quarterback for the duration of Watson’s suspension.

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