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Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson's NFL disciplinary hearing ends: What's next?

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's disciplinary hearing with the NFL ended late last week.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from the July 1 episode of The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show.

After Deshaun Watson's disciplinary hearing concluded last Thursday, many are asking what's next for the Cleveland Browns' quarterback.

But while some have assumed that the end of Watson's hearing -- which lasted three days -- means that a ruling on a potential punishment is near, that may not be the case. 

According to multiple reports, the independently appointed arbiter in the case, former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson, has asked both sides to file legal briefs by the week of July 11. The briefs will serve as final arguments for both Watson's side and the NFL, which has reportedly recommended that the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback serve an indefinite suspension lasting no less than one full season.

Watson's disciplinary hearing comes as the result of several women having accused the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback of sexual misconduct, including harassment and assault, during his time with the Houston Texans. Last month, Watson settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits that had been filed against him. A 25th lawsuit was previously dropped.

While two Texas grand juries have declined to indict Watson on criminal charges, he could still face punishment, including a suspension and/or fine, if Robinson determines that he violated the NFL's personal conduct policy.

After the briefs are filed, it will be up to Robinson to render a ruling, with no timetable set for when she will do so. Should she issue a punishment, both Watson and the NFL will have the ability to appeal it, which would be heard by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee.

In the event that Robinson doesn't issue a punishment, no such appeal can be made.

Whether or not the league will appeal Robinson's ruling has been the subject of speculation for the past week. While Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press initially reported that the NFL is likely to accept whatever potential punishment Robinson issues, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com later reported that the NFL would not likely accept Watson being suspended for 6-8 games.

As noted by Sportico's Michael McCann, any appeal that the NFL makes to effectively overrule Robinson could lead to a lawsuit from Watson. The possibility also exists that Watson and the NFL could negotiate a settlement on his punishment before Robinson issues a ruling, which some believe would be the best option for both sides.

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