The NFL Players Association is expected to argue with former U.S. District Court Judge Sue L. Robinson, the disciplinary officer appointed jointly by the league and the NFLPA, for far less stringent discipline against Watson, and may not seek any suspension at all.
The NFL will argue for a “significant” suspension of Deshaun Watson
Robinson will issue the first disciplinary ruling, under the revised guideline for personal conduct that was introduced with the collective agreement completed in 2020.
If Robinson decides that Watson violated his behavioral policy and imposes disciplinary action, the league or league may appeal the penalty to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person designated by him. If Robinson decides that Watson did not break the guidelines, the case would be closed, with no possibility of appeal.
According to the previous version of the Code of Conduct, Goodell was empowered to both make the first disciplinary ruling and decide any appeal. This is the first case under the new system.
It is not clear how long the hearing will last or when Robinson will make an initial decision. The NFL aims to get the entire case, including the resolution of any appeal, resolved before training camp, a person with knowledge of the case said earlier. The Browns, who completed a switch with the Houston Texans for Watson this offseason, have their first full training session with veteran players scheduled for July 27.
Watson is not charged with a crime and has denied the charges against him. He reached a settlement in 20 of the 24 then-active civil lawsuits against him, according to Tony Buzbee, the lawyer who represented the women. Buzbee said when announcing the settlements that the terms would remain confidential. He said he expected the four remaining lawsuits to be resolved in court.
Deshaun Watson agrees to settle 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits against him
The NFL said when the civil settlements were announced that they “would have no impact” on the league’s disciplinary process. The guidelines for personal conduct allow for disciplinary action to be taken without criminal guilt.
The league’s plan to seek a suspension of at least one year does not come as a surprise to those defending Watson in the case. Several people familiar with the case said a week ago that the NFL would seek a “substantial” suspension of Watson. A person on Watson’s side of the case then said that the league “probably” would argue for a suspension for an entire season.
The NFLPA is expected to cite, among other issues, the NFL’s decision not to suspend owners Washington Snyder of the Washington Commanders, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys for incidents involving them and their teams.
Watson has a base salary of $ 1.035 million for the 2022 season as part of the five-year contract he signed with the Browns worth a guaranteed $ 230 million. He would lose that salary if he is suspended for the entire season, and it is possible that the NFL may seek to impose an additional fine.
Watson did not play last season; the texans placed him on their inactive playlist on a weekly basis. But he was not suspended and was paid his full salary.