A crucial step in resolving Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson’s playing status for the 2022 season is taking place. A disciplinary hearing to determine whether Watson violated the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy conduct started on Tuesday.
Watson had been facing 24 civil lawsuits alleging inappropriate sexual conduct by him during massage sessions that took place while he was with the Houston Texans. Twenty of the 24 cases were settled last week. Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson, who has denied any wrongdoing, earlier this year.
Retired U.S. District Court judge Sue L. Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA, is conducting the hearing. The proceeding is expected to last several days.
Procedurally, the NFL was required to inform Robinson, Watson and the NFLPA of its recommended discipline at least 10 days prior to the hearing, according to the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. There are multiple reports of the NFL seeking an indefinite suspension that lasts at least one year. Talks between the NFL and the NFLPA/Watson prior to the hearing failed to produce a settlement.
There isn’t a set timetable for Robinson to issue a ruling. Ideally, a ruling will occur before the Browns open training camp on July 27. A finding of no policy violation, which doesn’t seem likely, would be the final resolution of the case.
Both sides have three business days to file an appeal if discipline is imposed. Commissioner Roger Goodell or someone he appoints as his designee would preside over the appeal, with the latitude to increase, decrease or affirm Robinson’s punishment.
Signing bonus forfeiture/voiding of guarantees
Whether Watson receives a yearlong suspension or is allowed to play football this season, the $44.965 million signing bonus in the fully guaranteed five-year contract worth $230 million he