According to a source who spoke to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson sentenced Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson to a six-game ban for breaching the league’s personal conduct policy following allegations of sexual assault on Monday.
According to the source, Watson won’t be penalised.
Watson violated the personal behavior standard, according to Robinson’s exhaustive 15-page finding, but there was insufficient support for a lengthy suspension, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
For the Browns’ game against Baltimore on October 23, Watson is able to make a comeback.
In a statement released Sunday night, the NFL Players Association made it plain that it will “stand behind” Robinson’s decision and urged the NFL to do the same.
Watson-related sources think six games is too many, but they respect the decision, sources told Dianna Russini of ESPN.
Each party would have three days to file a written appeal. According to Article 46 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee “will make a written decision that shall represent full, final and complete adjudication of the matter.”
In civil cases brought by 25 women, Watson has been charged with sexual assault and inappropriate behavior during massage sessions. When Watson was a player for the Houston Texans between March 2020 and March 2021, the interactions in question occurred. After a judge ruled in April 2021 that the plaintiffs needed to alter their applications to divulge their names, one of the 25 claims was dismissed. Watson agreed to settle three of the final four complaints on Monday, according to Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee, who represents the women suing Watson. Watson settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits he was facing in June.
Ashley Solis, the first woman to sue Watson and the first to make her identity and tale public, did reach a settlement, according to Buzbee, who confirmed this to ESPN’s John Barr.
The Texans agreed settlements with 30 women last month who had filed lawsuits against the team for its claimed role in the Watson allegations or were ready to do so.
During a three-day hearing held in her home state of Delaware in late June, Robinson heard arguments from the league, the union, and Watson’s attorney. The players’ union and Watson’s lawyer argued that the quarterback shouldn’t be suspended at all, while the NFL had been pressing for a punishment of at least a year. All the way up until the hearing, the parties talked about a potential settlement, but they were unable to reach an agreement.
The league and Watson’s side held additional settlement discussions in the days preceding Robinson’s decision, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano, but neither side ever thought they were near to an agreement. According to insiders, the most Watson’s side stated it was willing to accept was a ban of six to eight games. According to reports, the league’s best offer was a 12-game suspension and a sizable fine in the neighborhood of $8 million.
Watson will be permitted to take part in preseason workouts and games even if his ban is upheld. According to the CBA, he will also be permitted to return to the Browns for practice during the second part of the ban, which begins in Week 4. However, he won’t be permitted to join the team for the first half of the suspension.
Watson is expected to skip six of his $57,500 game checks in 2022, costing him a total of $345,000 off his $1.035 million basic pay because no additional fine was assessed. With a basic salary that will increase to $46 million in 2023 and a $44.965 million signing bonus, Watson’s contract with the Browns would guarantee him a league-high $230 million.
The NFL has been looking into whether Watson violated its personal conduct rules since 2021, despite the fact that two grand juries in Texas failed to press criminal charges against him earlier this year. Watson was questioned by the NFL earlier this summer over several days. Investigators for the league also spoke with a number of the women.
Watson has insisted he did nothing illegal and that he has no regrets about any of the things he did during the massage sessions. Additionally, Watson claimed that he assisted the NFL’s investigation and “answered every question truthfully” that was posed to him.
In March, the Texans received three first-round draft picks from the Browns in exchange for Watson. The largest contract in NFL history for a player was then given to Watson by Cleveland. It was a new, five-year deal worth $230 million with a full guarantee.
In the event that Watson is suspended, Cleveland’s starting would be Jacoby Brissett, according to statements made by Browns coach Kevin Stefanski at the opening of training camp last week. Watson played the majority of the offensive snaps for the first-team offense during the first week of camp, but Stefanski said the Browns “may change” their strategy in light of Robinson’s decision.