Deshaun Watson’s legal team takes on the NFL on Tuesday in front of a retired judge to determine his immediate future with the Cleveland Browns.
Former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players’ Association, will hold a hearing to determine whether Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline.
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback agreed to settle 20 of 24 civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct, but he’s still facing a significant penalty. A person familiar with the NFL’s position told The Associated Press last week the league is seeking a lengthy suspension for Watson based on the number of sexual assault allegations and conversations with the 11 women who were made available for interviews. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the hearing have not been disclosed publicly.
Watson’s side, led by renowned attorney Jeffrey Kessler, will try to argue there’s no basis for a long suspension. Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations. Watson has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name.
The NFL has punished several players for violating the league’s personal conduct policy without criminal charges. In 2010, Ben Roethlisberger received a six-game suspension after being accused of sexual assault by two women. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell later reduced the suspension to four games. Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott got six games in 2017 for domestic violence incidents.
On Monday, a woman who previously sued Watson filed a lawsuit against the Houston Texans, alleging his former team provided him with resources to enable his actions and “turned a blind eye” to his behavior.
This will be the first hearing for Robinson, who was the first woman Chief Judge for the District of Delaware. Previously, Goodell had the authority to impose discipline for violations of the personal conduct policy. Still, Goodell holds considerable power. If either the union or league appeals Robinson’s decision, Goodell or his designee “will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” per terms of Article 46 in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
That means Goodell could ultimately overrule Robinson's decision and give Watson one year or even an indefinite suspension due to the potential for more cases.
In April, Major League Baseball suspended pitcher Trevor Bauer two full seasons following the league’s investigation of domestic violence and sexual assault allegations made against him. That suspension didn’t include the 99 regular-season games the Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander missed after being placed on administrative leave on July 2, 2021.
Asked whether MLB’s handling of Bauer’s case has been discussed, a league official told the AP it’s difficult to compare the two but stressed the accusations against Watson are serious enough to warrant an “unprecedented punishment.” The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Robinson hasn't heard the case.
It's unknown how long it will take Robinson to make a decision, but the Browns should know Watson's availability before training camp. NFL discipline typically begins the week leading into the first regular-season game, so Watson would be eligible for camp unless a potential punishment stipulates otherwise.
The Browns traded a slew of draft picks to acquire Watson and gave him a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract in March.
2022 NFL draft superlatives: Best pick, biggest reach, most disappointing class and more
Best pick: Lions trade up for Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams
Biggest reach: Patriots trade up for Chattanooga guard Cole Strange
Most disappointing class: Bears give quarterback Justin Fields little help
Biggest head-scratcher: 49ers take another Day 2 running back
Best value: Ravens stick to their board
Most underrated class: Texans build a solid foundation
Most misunderstood class: Packers solidify their defense
Most bang for their buck: Panthers provide hope for the future
Biggest gamble: Titans prepare for a new era
Best Day 3 pick: Commanders stop North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell’s fall
The Carolina Panthers aren’t planning to change their approach with Christian McCaffrey, even though the star running back has missed 23 of the last 33 regular-season games due to injuries. It’s full speed ahead when it comes to McCaffrey this season. Panthers coach Matt Rhule says he's not going to worry about McCaffrey getting hurt again, saying "we are thinking about Christian in one way only, and that’s attack.” McCaffrey averaged nearly 30 touches per game through the first two games of last season before going down with a hamstring injury in a Week 3 Thursday night game against the Houston Texans. Rhule says it's too soon to know many touches per game McCaffrey will get this season.
Eric Kendricks is forming a bond quickly with new Minnesota Vikings linebacker partner Jordan Hicks. Kendricks played the last decade next to close friend Anthony Barr at UCLA even before the Vikings. Their mutual understanding was strong enough that sometimes all it took was one look. Barr became a free agent. Hicks signed with Minnesota in March after being cut by Arizona. Both Kendricks and Hicks have said they're well on their way to being in sync. They each told defensive coordinator Ed Donatell earlier this year how much they enjoy playing with the other.
The Denver Broncos' new ownership group is the league's most diverse, with four of the six members either female or minorities. Rob Walton and his daughter and son-in-law brought aboard three Black limited partners. They are former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Starbucks board chair Mellody Hobson and Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton. The group purchased the Broncos for a record $4.65 billion from the Pat Bowlen Trust. The sale was approved this week and the new owners flew to Denver to met with players and staff on Wednesday. Walton says Penner will be the team's new CEO.
Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley missed Tuesday’s practice in order to be with his youngest son, who was having surgery to treat a fractured toe and possible infection. The two-hour practice session did not have any noticeable delays and proceeded as normal. Staley is expected to be back at practice Wednesday. The Chargers have their first preseason game Saturday when they host the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper’s real estate company has proposed to pay more than than $82 million to creditors over an abandoned $800 million practice facility project in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Tepper’s company GT Real Estate Holdings filled for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware on June 2. Under this plan, GTRE would resolve claims by paying $60.5 million in cash funded into a settlement trust for contractors and others, $21.1 million to York County and $20 million or more to the City of Rock Hill. DT Sports Holding, LLC, a Tepper entity, previously funded $20 million in debtor-in-possession financing. Tepper, one of the NFL's richest owners, had invested more than $175 million in the half-built facility. The plan requires approval from courts and creditors.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ use of the hallucinogenic drink ayahuasca during an offseason retreat isn’t considered a violation of the NFL’s drug policy. Rodgers discussed on “The Aubrey Marcus Podcast” last week how he went on an ayahuasca retreat to Peru in 2020. Ayahuasca is defined as a psychoactive beverage native to South America and is often used for religious, ritualistic or medicinal purposes. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says it wouldn’t have triggered a positive test result on either the substance abuse or performance-enhancing substance policies collectively bargained by the NFL and its players’ association.
Graham Gano hit a 24-yard field goal as time expired, Daniel Jones was solid in limited work and the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots 23-21 on Thursday night to open the preseason. The Giants gave Brian Daboll a victory in his head coaching debut against his predecessor and the team he started his NFL career with. Despite some breakouts by the offensive line, the Giants moved the ball well, with Jones completing 6 of 10 passes for 69 yards. Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe each threw touchdown passes for New England
Frank Clark arrived at training camp for the Kansas City Chiefs noticeably trimmer and much quicker. His attitude? That was better, too. Both were impacted by the decision the defensive end made to clean up his life, even forgoing alcohol, which has gotten him into trouble in the past. Now it's time to see whether those changes translate to the field. The two-time Pro Bowl defensive end had just 4 1/2 sacks last season, and that paltry figure was a big reason why the Chiefs were near the bottom of the league in pressuring the quarterback.
Tom Brady has been excused from training camp and will be away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 11 days for personal reasons. Coach Todd Bowles says Brady's break from practice was arranged before camp began. Bowles says Brady won't return until after the Bucs' preseason game at Tennessee on Aug. 20. The coach says Brady wasn't going to play the first two preseason games anyway. Bowles says Brady is “going to deal with some personal things” during his absence. The 45-year-old quarterback retired in February only to change his mind six weeks later.
FILE - Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson speaks during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Carson, Calif. The Houston Texans had been told that their former quarterback Deshaun Watson was sexually assaulting and harassing women during massage sessions, but instead of trying to stop him, the team provided him with resources to enable his actions and “turned a blind eye” to his behavior, according to a lawsuit filed Monday, June 27, 2022. Watson, who was later traded to the Cleveland Browns, has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)