When Major League Baseball suspended Trevor Bauer for two years due to allegations that, at their core, involve sexual consent and the violation of it, we asked whether this meant the NFL will suspend Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for a full year. Reportedly, the league will try to impose something along those lines.
Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports that the NFL will argue that Watson should receive a “significant” suspension, and that the league “probably” will ask for a one-year banishment.
The Disciplinary Officer jointly hired and paid by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson, would then determine whether she should impose a suspension of that magnitude, something less than that, or no suspension at all. If the end result is no discipline of any kind, the case ends. If any discipline is imposed, Commissioner Roger Goodell would have jurisdiction over an appeal by either or both sides. He could reduce it, or he could increase it.
Some think that the league will deliberately overshoot its preferred suspension, assuming that Judge Robinson will reduce whatever is imposed. Thus, if the league asks for a year, she could potentially cut it to eight or 10 games. If the ultimate goal is to have Watson suspended for a full year, the league may need to propose something more than that.
Per Maske, NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler has become involved in the case. The league reportedly is concerned that Kessler will push for no discipline at all.
Maske confirms our report that, in defending Watson, the NFLPA will point to the punishments imposed (or not) on Commanders owner Daniel Snyder, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to support the argument that Watson’s punishment, if any, should reflect the consequences those owners received — especially since the Personal Conduct Policy warns that owners are held to a higher standard than players.
Maske adds that the league would like to have the situation fully resolved before training camp opens, but that the approach taken by Watson and the NFLPA could delay the outcome. Don’t blame Watson if that happens, NFL. You’ve had months to investigate the situation and to make a decision. When the time comes for Watson and the NFLPA to present a defense, it should take whatever amount of time it needs to take. And that should have been factored into the timing of the initiation of the process.
Per Maske, the league could impose discipline against Watson based on currently available information, with the understanding that further discipline could be imposed if new information surfaces. That could get tricky for the league. If, for example, he’s suspended eight games and proceeds to lose any, some, or all of the 24 (soon to be 26) lawsuits pending against him, the NFL surely wouldn’t be able to suspend him again simply because juries believe the testimony of the plaintiffs and impose verdicts against Watson. There would have to be something truly new — new claims, new evidence. Something that the league didn’t already know or that it shouldn’t have known, through reasonable investigative steps.
Although Maske’s story doesn’t mention paid leave, that remains a viable alternative. First, that process doesn’t involve Judge Robinson. Second, it defers a final decision until all litigation ends. Third, it gives Watson a clear incentive to settle the cases pending against him.
Whatever happens, the clock keeps ticking more and more loudly. Presumably, a decision is coming soon. It should happen be no later than Friday, July 1 — the one-year anniversary of the epic, four-day weekend bad-news dump regarding the Commanders, a woefully inadequate (and sloppily enforced) penalty against Snyder, and a blatant effort by the league to hide the specific facts that, if disclosed, quite possibly would have made it untenable for Snyder to continue owning the team.