The NFL Players’ Association is expecting Deshaun Watson to be hammered with “unprecedented” punishment by the league for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, according to a story that appeared at ProFootballTalk.com.
If and when that happens, according to the story, the players’ union is fully prepared to defend the Browns’ quarterback if he is suspended without pay by pointing out how lightly the league responded to questionable behavior by three team owners — Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, Daniel Snyder of the Washington Commanders and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.
“Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations of the Personal Conduct Policy occur,” The NFL’s bylaws state.
• Kraft was charged with solicitation in January 2019 for his involvement in an alleged prostitution sting at a Florida massage parlor. But charges were eventually dropped because his session was secretly recorded and it was concluded his rights to privacy were violated. Kraft was not fined by the NFL.
• Jones was not punished by the league when Richard Dalrymple, the Cowboys’ former senior vice president for public relations and communications, allegedly used his phone in 2015 to record four Cowboys cheerleaders undressing.
The league did not investigate the matter. The Cowboys did their own investigation and “found no evidence of wrongdoing,” according to a statement by the team. Despite that conclusion, the team paid a confidential settlement of $2.4 million for the incident, according to an ESPN report. Each woman received approximately $400,500.
• Snyder was forced to temporarily turn over control of the Commanders to his wife, Tanya, in 2021 because of a myriad of issues involving Dan Snyder. The team was fined $10 million, but Snyder was not personally fined. That investigation is ongoing.
Watson is being sued by 26 women accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions from 2019-2021 when he played for the Houston Texans. The Browns acquired Watson from the Texans on March 18 of this year for six draft picks.
Two Texas grand juries chose not to indict Watson on criminal charges, but he still faces the 26 civil suits.
Watson took the vast majority of snaps throughout the 10 organized team activity practice sessions in May and June and again during the three-day minicamp that concluded on June 16, as though the Browns expect him to be their starting quarterback when the season opens Sept. 11 on the road against the Carolina Panthers.
There is no shortage of “experts” with “inside knowledge” making predictions on how many games Watson might be suspended. Four games, six, eight, 10, 12 games, an entire season, suspended indefinitely — they’re all out there. He could be suspended until all the civil suits are resolved. Watson could be put on the Commissioner’s exempt list and be paid while he is suspended.
“I can’t give you a timeline (for a possible suspension),” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced May 24 at a meeting of league owners in Atlanta. “We are nearing the end of the investigative period and then it will be handled by our disciplinary officer.”
The civil lawsuits are not expected to tried until March of 2023, but that would only be the case if Watson plays for the Browns in 2022. The trials could begin sooner if they would not interrupt his season.
Two women have sued Watson since Goodell made his announcement and at least two more women might sue Watson soon, according to statements by Tony Buzbee, the lawyer for the women suing Watson. More plaintiffs could be added after the league concludes its investigation, which would make determining a punishment difficult; more suits could be added after a suspension is announced.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Watson has claimed he did nothing wrong. He repeated that stance June 14 when he met with reporters after a Browns practice session.
“I never assaulted anyone,” Watson said. “I never harassed anyone. I never disrespect anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.”
“My biggest thing is just wanting to clear my name so I can get back to being in the environment that I’m most comfortable in, and that’s being in the community, helping people and being that role model and leader and also being on the football field with my teammates and trying to win ball games.”
Watson hasn’t played since the 2020 season when he was with the Texans.