The NFL will seek “substantial” suspension of Deshaun Watson

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The NFL will argue that Cleveland Brown’s quarterback Deshaun Watson should receive a “significant” suspension for violating the league’s guidelines for personal conduct, several people familiar with the matter said Friday.

The league will “probably” apply for a full season suspension for Watson, a person on Watson’s side of the case said on Friday. A person familiar with the league’s views on the matter warned of being “cautious” in specifying an exact length at this time of the suspension the NFL will apply for. But that person also said, “Meaning would be the proper term.”

Watson faces 24 active civil lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual assault. The allegations include making inappropriate comments, exposing himself and forcing his penis on women’s hands during massage treatments. Watson and his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, have denied the allegations. Two large juries in Texas refused to charge Watson with a crime. The NFL is preparing to present the findings of the investigation to Sue L. Robinson, the former U.S. District Judge who is the disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association under the current version of conduct policy.

The league hopes the entire disciplinary process, including the resolution of a possible appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person designated by him, is completed by the start of training camp, said a person with knowledge of the case. The Browns are scheduled to open training camp on July 27.

Deshaun Watson is facing the 24th lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault

“Like I said, I’ve never assaulted anyone or I’ve never harassed anyone, or I’ve never disrespected anyone,” Watson said Tuesday. at a press conference on a Browns offseason training session. “I never forced anyone to do anything.”

During a process revised in the latest league agreement between the league and the NFLPA that was completed in 2020, the first decision on a potential suspension or fine will be made by Robinson, now a lawyer in Wilmington, Del., After retiring from the bench in 2017.

The case would be closed, without appeal, if Robinson decides that there was no breach of the Code of Conduct. If she decides that there was a violation of the guidelines and imposes a penalty, both sides can appeal to Goodell. The NFLPA pushed for revisions of the CBA’s Personal Conduct Guidelines after clashes, some of which ran into courtrooms following lawsuits filed by the federation and players, in previous disciplinary cases. Previously, Goodell was responsible for both the first disciplinary ruling and for resolving the anchor.

It is not clear if Robinson will hold what constitutes a quasi-trial before she makes the decision. She declined to comment this week, referring questions to the league and the league.

The NFL’s investigation has been conducted by Lisa Friel, the former head of the sexual offenses unit for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, who is the league’s special adviser on investigations.

Friel interviewed at least 11 of the women who accuse Watson, who is represented by attorney Tony Buzbee, according to a person familiar with the investigation, along with other women. She reviewed relevant available documents. NFL representatives interviewed Watson over several days in Houston.

“I can not control it,” Watson said this week about the NFL’s disciplinary process. “I met the NFL a couple of weeks ago, and I did everything they asked me to do. I truthfully answered all the questions that the NFL asked me. I spent hours with the people they took down. And that’s all I can do is be honest and tell them exactly what happened.I know they have a job and therefore I have to respect it.And that was what we wanted to do is work together.And they have to make a decision [that’s] best for the league. “

The NFL’s investigation into Deshaun Watson is almost complete, says Roger Goodell

Hardin confirmed that he is involved in representing Watson in the NFL process with the league, but declined further comment on the league negotiations.

The league has given a presentation on the case to the NFLPA and Watson’s representatives, according to a person with knowledge of the case. As a result, Watson’s side of the issue concluded that the NFL would demand a significant penalty.

It is not clear whether Major League Baseball’s two-season suspension of pitcher Trevor Bauer under their domestic violence policy will serve as a precedent for the NFL’s proposed suspension of Watson, said another person familiar with the league’s views in recent weeks. But the NFL is aware that the length of the Bauer suspension could affect the audience’s expectations and reaction in the Watson case, that person said.

Outside NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler has been involved in the case. A person familiar with the NFL’s view said the league is on guard against Kessler arguing for no disciplinary action at all.

Kessler declined to comment Friday, citing questions from the NFLPA. The NFLPA can cite the lack of criminal charges, although the NFL’s policy allows discipline to be imposed without such charges.

The NFLPA’s defense of Watson will raise the question that owners Daniel Snyder of the Washington Commanders, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys were not suspended by the league for incidents involving them and their teams. It confirmed a person with knowledge of the case after first being reported by Pro Football Talk.

The league will “ideally” have the entire process, including the resolution of any appeal, completed at the start of training camp, said a person familiar with the NFL’s view, adding the disclaimer that the approach from Kessler and the NFLPA could slow the proceedings.

This first case that will be resolved under the new disciplinary system is a high-profile case. A person on Watson’s side wondered if Goodell could be reluctant to overturn the neutral arbitrator’s disciplinary ruling in the first case.

The League and the NFLPA may reach a settlement at some point to exclude any appeal or further legal action by Watson.

The Browns completed a trade with the Houston Texans for Watson this offseason and signed him to a new contract worth a guaranteed $ 230 million over five seasons. Watson did not play last season, and was placed on the Texans’ inactive list on a weekly basis.

Any suspension will be unpaid, based on Watson’s $ 1.035 million salary for the 2022 season. The NFL can apply for a fine, in addition to any salary lost by Watson. The league may also stipulate that further discipline may be imposed if new information emerges.