On the eve of the hearing before the independent disciplinary officer, who will make the initial decision on what type of punishment Deshon Watson will face, the NFL recommended that the quarterback endure unlimited removal for at least one year.
The league informed Sue L. Robinson, a former federal referee who serves as a disciplinary officer, Watson and the NFL Players’ Association of their recommendation Monday night, a man familiar with the situation, confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person speaks on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorized by any of the parties to comment on the matter.
Following the hearing, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday and is likely to continue until Wednesday, Robinson – who has been jointly compensated by the league and the players’ union – will review the facts gathered during a one-year league investigation. She will also consider the arguments presented by NFL and NFL Players Association attorneys.
She will then give her decision on what, if any, Watson should receive.
If Robinson follows the NFL’s recommendation, Watson and the NFLPA are expected to appeal. However, the chances of winning such a complaint would seem bleak, because under the terms of the collective agreement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will either lead the process and make a final decision, or appoint another person to do so.
MORE ▼: Woman sues Deshon Watson now also sues former QB team Houston Texas
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The recommendation for an indefinite suspension of at least one year allows the NFL to extend the sentence if more incriminating evidence comes to light, either during one of the four ongoing civil cases against Watson, or elsewhere. The NFL will also recommend certain conditions that Watson will have to meet to make his recovery possible, the man said, confirming a report in the Wall Street Journal on the league’s plans.
Charges of sexual abuse against Watson first surfaced last year after the defense attorney expressed his displeasure with the Houston Texans and demanded an exchange. Watson did not play a single game last season, while at odds with the Texans, who remained determined to provide good compensation for one of the brightest stars of the game.
Opponents hesitated to comply with these demands until they were sure Watson would face criminal charges from Houston authorities. Two major juries last spring chose not to bring any charges against the 26-year-old. However, 24 masseurs whose services Watson has provided through social media interactions over the past few years are still suing him.
Shortly after the grand jury’s decision, the Cleveland Browns acquired Watson in exchange for first-round, third and two-round elections. Brown also signed a record five-year contract with Watson for $ 230 million. The deal included a low base salary of just over $ 1 million for 2022 to help the quarterback avoid heavy financial losses in the event of a lengthy suspension this year.
Last week, Watson – who claims he never attacked any of the women or forced any of them to perform sexual acts without consent – reached confidential financial agreements with 20 of the 24 women.
But that had nothing to do with the NFL’s decision to recommend an indefinite suspension for at least a year.
NFL officials wanted to send a strong message that sexual abuse would not be tolerated and thus demanded severe punishment. According to people familiar with the situation, NFL employees have expressed disappointment with Brown’s creative salary structure. This, along with the large number of prosecutors and the wide range of charges against Watson, took into account the league’s decision to insist on a suspension for at least a year.
During preliminary talks on an agreement with the league, the NFL informed Watson’s camp that accepting a one-year suspension would not change the length of the sentence if further details became public. However, Watson opposed the proposal for a one-year ban.
This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: Deshaun Watson: NFL recommends stopping for at least a year