With a disciplinary hearing with the NFL looming next week, a new report says that the NFL wants to suspend Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson indefinitely, a punishment that would mean he’d have to sit out at least a full season.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the possible suspension on Saturday evening. If such a suspension is handed down and survives any appeal by Watson and the NFL Players Association—the union representing NFL players—it would mean that by the time Watson suits up for a game, it would have been more than two years after the last time he took a snap. He last played in January 2021 for the Houston Texans in their final regular season game against the Tennessee Titans. He sat out the following season in a dispute with ownership over whether he would be traded.
As that dispute played out multiple women came forward accusing Watson of sexually assaulting or harassing them during massage sessions he booked in the Houston area. Ultimately Watson was investigated criminally but two grand juries declined to indict him. He faced civil lawsuits from 24 women, though a New York Times investigation published in May found that there were more accusers who didn’t file lawsuits, while other women said they gave him massages without any issue.
On June 21, the attorney representing all 24 plaintiffs, Tony Buzbee, announced that 20 of the cases had reached confidential settlements. He said he expected the same thing for the other four lawsuits soon.
But Watson, who was traded to Cleveland in March, has participated in the Browns’ offseason practices under the cloud of impending discipline from the NFL, which has a conduct policy for players that allows for suspensions, fines or both even if players are never charged with a crime or held liable in civil court. Other players, notably former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, have been suspended after facing sexual assault allegations. But his ban was under a previous version of the league’s policy.
The Wall Street Journal quoted unnamed sources familiar with the NFL’s investigation describing how they expect it will be resolved.
The people familiar with the case anticipate an outcome the week of July 4, although there remains a chance of it coming sooner. His arbitration hearing is scheduled to begin this upcoming week.
The NFL Players Association and Watson’s lawyers, meanwhile, are preparing to vigorously fight such a tough ban of the embattled Cleveland Browns quarterback...Watson’s is the first case under the NFL’s new collectively bargained personal conduct policy, which places the initial ruling in the hands of a neutral arbitrator.
Watson has always denied all of the allegations against him.