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What does the suspension process look like for Deshaun Watson?

NFL precedent ranges from 3 games to an entire season
Deshaun Watson
Posted at 3:24 PM, Jun 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-27 15:37:47-04

CLEVELAND — With the discipline hearing set for Tuesday following the 24 lawsuits that were filed against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, the future for him holds a few possibilities.

The $230 million trade acquisition for the Browns will go into the hearing on June 28 with Sue L. Robinson where a decision will be made on his suspension time with the NFL.

Robinson will need to determine a time frame for the number of games he could be suspended for.

Jeff Darlington, a reporter with ESPN, said this is a "complicated" situation as there is no precedent set for a case similar to this.

"Well, it is very complicated because of the lack of precedent, not only when it comes to necessarily the alleged misconduct and the allegations up against Deshaun Watson, but also the disciplinary process itself," said Darlington. "As a result, I think there's a lot of mystery for a lot of us as to how this is ultimately going to play out."

During this decision time, if the final four remaining cases are settled or determined otherwise, a potential indefinite suspension is a possibility when all of the lawsuits are off the table.

Once the time frame has been decided, it is likely Watson will appeal, with the NFL Players Association supporting the decision as he is part of the players union. This will lead to litigation again to re-determine the amount of time he will be suspended.

"Any time I've spoken with anybody in the league office, they've made very clear that we don't have a timeline on this," he said. "Sue Robinson has never been given the time timeline to finish, ultimately come up with her conclusion."

After it is all said and done, the time will be settled and he will carry out the suspension.

But with the four remaining cases of the 24 still on the table, there is a chance for a potential heavy suspension which would remain in place until they are resolved. This is a stipulation on his return to play.

The last time a player was suspended in the NFL for a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy was in 2018 by Jameis Winston for accusations of sexual harassment. His suspension was for three games.

The keyword is accusations in this decision. One of the final four remaining open lawsuits was filed by Tony Buzbee who represents Ashley Solis, who was the first woman to step forward against Watson.

Her case has been both a civil suit and considered for criminal charges.

However, the last time a player was suspended for being charged with assault was back in 2011. Chris Cook was charged with domestic violence while with Minnesota and was suspended for the entire season.

With the difference between both precedents set by prior decisions from the NFL, this leaves the door wide open for potential suspension time for Watson.

The Browns are no strangers to suspensions on their roster, as defensive end Myles Garrett was given an indefinite suspension in 2019 after removing his helmet and using it as a weapon against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Even though the two have similar descriptions of the punishment of their actions, they are different situations when compared to one another, said Darlington.

"I think that the two situations are so separate, both because we're talking about obviously very different situations, but one of which is really a matter of off-the-field dynamic," he said. "It feels so difficult to project how anything is going to move forward."

Following the indefinite suspension in November that year, he was reinstated in February 2020, not even five months later.

This does not include the taboo addition of Kareem Hunt in 2019, following TMZ leaking video footage of him kicking and shoving a woman at The 9 in Cleveland in 2018.

Hunt was served an 8-game suspension from the NFL, which he did not appeal, and sat for the first half of the 2019 season.

On Monday, attorney Tony Buzbee filed "first of many" lawsuits against Watson's former team, the Houston Texans in relation to their involvement with his allegations.

Darlington doesn't believe this new lawsuit will not play a role in Robinson's decision on the suspension time, as they feel seperate.

"I don't think that the allegations against the Houston Texans will create any sort of delay when it comes to the discipline against Deshaun Watson. It feels somewhat separate now," he said. "I do feel like Sue Robinson, the disciplinary officer, feels like she's at least moving forward with her body of work when it comes to the investigation, as opposed to waiting on yet another investigation into the Houston Texans."

With an undetermined amount of time for the suspension bound by a timeline between now and the start of training camp, the future of Watson and his involvement with the Browns lies in the hands of Robinson.

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