A decision on the discipline of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will be released Monday following allegations of sexual misconduct.
Two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that retired Judge Sue L. Robinson has informed the NFL and the NFL Players Association that she is ready to rule on Watson’s disciplinary hearing that concluded a month ago. . They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.
Watson was accused of sexual harassment and assault by 24 massage therapists in Texas and has settled 20 of the civil lawsuits filed against him. Four lawsuits remain pending, and the attorney representing the women has said he hopes to bring them to trial sometime next spring.
Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal charges stemming from the allegations.
Watson, who played four seasons with the Houston Texans before being traded to Cleveland in March, has been practicing with the Browns while Robinson has spent weeks trying to determine if the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback violated the NFL personal conduct and whether to impose discipline.
The NFL argued for an indefinite suspension of at least one year during a three-day hearing in Delaware last month. The league also wants to fine Watson $5 million, according to a person familiar with the discussions. The union pushed for no punishment, though a person familiar with Watson’s defense told the AP in June that a suspension is expected and the goal is for Watson to play this season.
Negotiations of the agreement did not progress.
If Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the players’ union, imposes any punishment, either side can appeal. In that case, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee “will issue a written decision that will constitute a full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” according to the terms of article 46 of the collective agreement.
The NFLPA has already made it clear that it will not appeal.
“Prior to Judge Robinson’s decision, we wanted to reiterate the facts of this proceeding,” the union said in a statement. “First, we have fully cooperated with all NFL investigations and have provided you with the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct policy investigation. A former federal judge, appointed jointly by the NFLPA and the NFL, conducted a full and fair hearing, read thousands of pages of investigative documents and impartially reviewed the arguments of both sides.
“Every player, owner, business partner and interested party deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be clouded by the whims of the League office. That is why, regardless of his decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will uphold their ruling and we ask the NFL to do the same.”
The union negotiated the right of either party to appeal a ruling by a disciplinary officer at the CBA signed in March 2020 because Goodell previously had the authority to impose punishments for personal conduct violations.
Watson took most of the first-team reps with the Browns’ starting offense through the first four days of camp.
On Saturday, the 26-year-old quarterback practiced in front of Browns fans for the first time since signing a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract with the team in March. He stayed after practice to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. He even signed and gave away his shoes after losing a game of rock-paper-scissors to a young fan.
The Browns traded three first-round draft picks to the Texans for Watson, who the team believes can make him a Super Bowl contender.
If Watson is suspended, coach Kevin Stefanski reiterated last week that backup Jacoby Brissett would be the starter. The Browns recently signed veteran Josh Rosen as safer, and Josh Dobbs is also on the list.
Watson has not spoken to reporters during the camp, presumably waiting until there is a resolution to his case.
“I know there is that uncertainty, but we can only control what we can control,” Stefanski said. “I think that’s what he’s done a really good job on. A big part of that is that there’s a lot of volume in what we’re doing right now when it comes to football. So there are a lot of meetings, a lot of installation, and a lot of training, walking, and practice. He’s really thrown into it.”
AP’s Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed.