The NFL insisted on an indefinite suspension while Deshaun Watson’s legal team argued there was no basis for the punishment as both sides presented their cases before a retired Delaware judge on Tuesday. , said two people present at the Assoc.
The NFL insisted on an indefinite suspension while Deshaun Watson’s legal team argued there was no basis for the sanction as both sides presented their cases before a retired Delaware judge on Tuesday , two people present told The Associated Press.
The hearing will continue on Wednesday and Watson is expected to be there for the duration, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the hearing is not public. It is expected to end on Thursday, but it is unclear when a decision will be made.
Former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association, will determine whether Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline.
Watson has agreed to settle 20 of 24 civil sexual misconduct lawsuits, but the league is seeking at least a one-year suspension, one of the people told the AP. Watson’s team, led by attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Rusty Hardin, wants the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback to play for the Cleveland Browns this season.
Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints arising from the allegations.
Watson denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name.
This is the first hearing for Robinson, who served as the first female Chief Justice of the District of Delaware. Previously, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the authority to impose disciplinary action for violations of the Personal Conduct Policy.
Still, Goodell wields considerable power. If the union or league appeals Robinson’s decision, Goodell or his representative “will issue a written decision which will constitute a full, final and complete settlement of the dispute,” under the terms of Article 46 of the collective agreement.
This means Goodell could ultimately reverse Robinson’s decision and suspend Watson for a year or even indefinitely due to the possibility of other cases.
However, an appeal would prolong the process for both parties.
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. Goodell then reduced the suspension to four games. Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott played in six games in 2017 for domestic violence.
On Monday, a woman who previously sued Watson filed a lawsuit against the Houston Texans, alleging her former team provided her with resources to enable her actions and “turned a blind eye” to her behavior.
It’s unclear 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 before the regular season opener, so Watson would be eligible for camp unless a potential punishment states otherwise.
The Browns traded a slew of draft picks to acquire Watson and gave him a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract in March.
Cleveland, which opens training camp July 27, is eager to find out how long it will be without Watson or if the Browns will get him next season.
The Browns signed veteran QB Jacoby Brissett to be Watson’s replacement, but the team may be inclined to find a more high-profile starter if Watson is suspended for a significant period. Josh Dobbs is also on Cleveland’s roster, but he’s never started an NFL game.
Any reconciliation with Baker Mayfield seems unlikely. The first overall pick in 2018, Mayfield was essentially sidelined when the Browns persuaded Watson to come to Cleveland.
At a youth camp in Oklahoma on Tuesday, Mayfield said it would take “contact” for him and the Browns to mend their relationship.
“But we are ready to move on, I think, on both sides,” he said.
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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Rob Maaddi, Associated Press