NFL appeals 6-game suspension for Browns’ Deshaun Watson

Rob Maaddi Ap Pro Football Writer
Thursday, August 4, 2022

The NFL is seeking an indefinite suspension of at least one year plus a fine in appealing a disciplinary officer’s decision to suspend Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy, a person familiar with the filing told The Associated Press.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter isn't public knowledge, also said Watson would be required to undergo treatment before he could be reinstated. The league initially recommended an $8 million fine and asked during settlement negotiations for at least a $5 million fine plus a 12-game suspension that never materialized, another person involved in the talks told the AP.

The NFL's appeal gives Commissioner Roger Goodell or someone he designates authority to impose a stiffer penalty. League spokesman Brian McCarthy said it's still to be determined whether Goodell or someone else will hear the appeal.

Former federal judge Sue L. Robinson issued her ruling Monday after Watson was accused by two dozen women in Texas of sexual misconduct during massage treatments while he played for the Houston Texans.

In her 16-page report, Robinson described Watson's behavior as “more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL."

But her punishment fell far short of the NFL's request. So, the league on Wednesday exercised its right to appeal, per the collective bargaining agreement.

The players’ union has until the end of business Friday to respond in writing. The union could challenge the appeal ruling in federal court, setting the stage for a prolonged fight. Both sides could still reach a settlement to avoid a lengthy battle. The NFLPA didn't immediately comment on the appeal.

McCarthy said there's no timeline for Goodell or his designee to make a ruling.

According to the league's personal conduct policy, the appeal will be processed on an expedited basis. Also, it will be “limited to consideration of the terms of discipline imposed” and “based upon a review of the existing record without reference to evidence or testimony not previously considered.”

The policy also states the "decision of the Commissioner or his designee, which may overturn, reduce, modify or increase the discipline previously issued, will be final and binding on all parties.”

This is the first time since the new CBA was signed in 2020 that the league and the NFLPA turned to a jointly appointed disciplinary officer to determine violations of the personal conduct policy. In the past, Goodell has served as judge and jury to impose penalties on players.

By appealing, the NFL is giving that power back to Goodell, who can chose another person to levy any punishment.

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