AP source: Browns QB Watson settles for 11-game suspension

Deshaun Watson has reached an agreement with the NFL and will serve an 11-game suspension and pay a $5 million fine rather than risk missing his first season as a Cleveland Browns quarterback, The Associated is told. Press someone familiar with the situation.

Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women while playing for the Houston Texans. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity on Thursday revealing the settlement between Watson and the league, which had sought to ban him for at least a year for violating its personal conduct policy, as the agreement n had not been announced.

The settlement ends months of posturing between Watson’s legal team, the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

As part of the settlement, Watson could return for the Browns’ Dec. 4 game in Houston.

On August 1, the three-time Pro Bowler was suspended six games by Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge jointly appointed by the league and union to act as an independent disciplinary officer.

Robinson discovered Watson, 26, violated the league’s personal conduct policy after reviewing an investigation into his actions and calling his behavior “flagrant” and “predatory”.

Believing the suspension was too light, the league appealed and referred Watson’s case to Goodell, who had handled all player disciplines in the past. The league previously requested an indefinite suspension and a hefty fine.

Goodell appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal. Harvey is an attorney who was previously involved in the NFL’s decision to suspend Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games during the 2017 season for domestic violence allegations.

According to the 2020 collective agreement, Harvey’s decision would have constituted “a full, final and complete resolution of the dispute.”

At owners’ meetings this month, Goodell said the league’s pursuit of a one-year ban was warranted following its investigation and Robinson’s findings.

“She strengthened the evidence,” Goodell said. “There were multiple flagrant violations, and it was predatory behavior.”

In his conclusion, Robinson cited Watson’s lack of remorse as a factor in his decision. Watson first apologized “to all the women I’ve touched” before making his Browns debut at an exhibition in Jacksonville.

Watson was accused of being sexually inappropriate with women during massage therapy sessions from March 2020 to March 2021 in Texas. In civil lawsuits filed in Texas, the women accused Watson of exposing themselves, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will. A woman alleged that Watson forced her to perform oral sex.

Two separate grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson, who denied any wrongdoing. He recently settled 23 of 24 lawsuits.

For now, the suspension ends months of speculation over whether Watson would play in 2022 for the Browns, who have outbid several other teams, traded three first-round picks to the Texans in March and signed the QB. for a five-year, $230 million term. Contract.

Watson’s case has sparked strong opinions while raising questions about how the league handles player discipline and its spotty record of supporting women.

The Browns think Watson could make him a Super Bowl contender. Without him, they might struggle to simply wrestle in the AFC North against defending conference champion Cincinnati along with Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The suspension also means that Watson will be inactive for longer. One of professional football’s elite QBs, he sat out last season in Houston after asking for a trade and before the sex allegations surfaced.

In his 16-page ruling, Robinson found the league had proven Watson violated three provisions of the conduct policy: sexual assault as defined by the league, posing a real danger to the safety and well-being of others and undermining or endangering the integrity of the league.

Robinson also pointed to flaws in the league’s conduct policy, saying it was unfair “to identify conduct as prohibited only after the conduct has occurred, just as it is inherently unfair to change the penalties for a such conduct after the fact”.

Her punishment was criticized by several organisations, including the National Organization for Women, who called it “unacceptable, insulting and dangerous – but not surprising”. The NFL and the multi-billion dollar sports industry have a vested interest in enabling sexual misconduct, assault and violence.

Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the 24 women who sued Watson, and Ashley Solis, the first woman to go public with allegations against Watson, denounced the initial six-game suspension at a press conference in Houston in early August. .

Watson continued training as his case progressed through the league process.

All along, the Browns’ plan was to hand over their offense to veteran Jacoby Brissett, who has made 37 career starts, during Watson’s suspension. But it’s now possible that Cleveland will explore other options at quarterback.

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