It was initially recommended by NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson that Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Deshaun Watson be suspended for six meaningful games over allegations of sexual misconduct during massage sessions. The league responded to that ruling by asking appeals officer and former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to ban Watson for an entire year and make him immediately ineligible to participate even in preseason contests.
A new twist to the story emerged late Thursday afternoon as fans continued to wait for Harvey’s decision.
Rob Maaddi and Tom Withers of the Associated Press reported that « a person familiar with » Watson’s defense claims the 26-year-old « would accept an eight-game suspension and $5M fine to avoid missing the entire season. »
The AP adds, though, that « the league is seeking a minimum suspension of 17 games, a significant fine over $5M and wants Watson to be required to undergo evaluation and treatment as determined by medical experts before he could be reinstated. »
It was reported in July that the NFL Players Association would challenge a one-year suspension imposed by either Robinson or Harvey in federal court. The parties settling the matter would remove that option from the table.
However, the AP update came the same day that Browns insider Daryl Ruiter said during the « It’s Always Gameday in Cleveland » podcast that the « NFL would be well within their rights to request and demand a 24-game suspension under what the commissioner said about how the league views » Watson’s violations of the personal conduct policy.
Early Thursday evening, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio suggested the NFL won’t be quick to settle.
« We placed ‘would accept’ in quotes because that makes it not part of a negotiation, not a formal offer to which the league would respond, sparking a back and forth that finishes with more games and more money, » Florio noted in his piece. « It’s Watson’s camp floating the idea of what it would take to get it done. »
Florio also wrote that the NFL « has the deck fully stacked in its favor — as evidenced by Watson’s willingness to miss nearly half the season and surrender half the salary he earned last year. »
Watson remains on track to start over backup Jacoby Brissett for at least Friday’s preseason opener at the Jacksonville Jaguars unless otherwise announced by the Browns or the NFL.