The NFL has been investigating Deshaun Watson for more than a year now, and that investigation took center stage this week at a hearing during which it will soon determine whether Watson deserves to be suspended for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
The hearing began on Tuesday and, as CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson reports, has officially concluded on Thursday evening. Now, after the NFL and NFLPA each laid out their cases, Watson's fate rests in the hands of the league's jointly appointed disciplinary officer, Sue L. Robinson. She will make the decision on whether Watson violated the NFL's personal conduct policy. If he did, she'll also decide how long he should be suspended.
Watson was facing a total of 24 sexual misconduct lawsuits, but that number is now down to fourwith 20 of the women. Despite the settlements, the NFL that would last at least one full season.
As for when this decision may come down, it could still be a few weeks before we find out Watson's fate. ESPN reports that post-hearing briefs from both sides are due the week of July 11, indicating that we may not get the verdict until around that date.
If you're wondering what might happen following this hearing, here are the possible outcomes:
- 1. No suspension. If Robinson decides Watson did NOT violate the personal conduct policy, then she can simply rule that Watson doesn't deserve to be suspended. If that happens, then the quarterback would be free to play the entire 2022 season for the Browns. This seems like the least likely scenario, but the NFLPA is going to try and make it happen by arguing that Watson's punishment should be proportional to the punishments that have recently been handed out to several owners, who are also supposed to follow the personal conduct policy. Watson's side is expected to point out that Robert Kraft didn't get suspended for and that Jerry Jones never got punished even though the Cowboys were in a that ended with their top PR guy unexpectedly retiring.
- 2. Watson gets suspended. If Robinson rules that Watson DID violate the personal conduct policy, then that means the quarterback will definitely be getting suspended. Although the NFL is that would last at least one year, Robinson doesn't necessarily have to follow that suggestion. The judge will be free to suspend Watson for whatever length she sees fit.
If we see scenario one happen, then the case is over. The NFL isn't allowed to appeal Robinson's decision if she rules that Watson did NOT violate the CBA. Meanwhile, had the two sides come to some sport of settlement prior to the conclusion of this hearing, we obviously wouldn't see either side appeal the suspension either. CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson reported last week that settlement talks "fell apart," and the two sides weren't too eager to get back to the negotiating table, so that scenario seems to be moot.
If scenario two happens, then the process won't necessarily be over. If either side doesn't agree with the length of suspension handed out by Robinson, then they will be free to appeal. For instance, if Watson is suspended for eight games, the NFL could appeal and ask for a full season. On the other hand if Watson is suspended for a year or more, then we'll almost certainly see his side appeal the decision.
If things reach the appeal stage, that definitely becomes an advantage for the NFL because any appeal would be heard by Roger Goodell or someone who he appoints.
If you're looking for more information on Watson's case, we've answered several more questions about the situation -- like who the Browns QB might be if he gets suspended for the entire season -- and you can check that out by.