CLEVELAND — Rusty Hardin maintains that his client, Deshaun Watson, is innocent. But when it comes to the NFL's investigation into the Cleveland Browns quarterback, the lawyer believes that the league won't have the "courage" to treat him that way.
Appearing on the "Between the Lines" podcast on Monday, Hardin discussed the league's investigation into Watson, which stems from accusations of sexual misconduct from 22 women in the Houston area. In doing so, Hardin stated his belief that bad publicity will make it difficult to publicly absolve his client.
"I've always assumed, all the publicity and everything, it's going to be very hard for the NFL to have the courage to do what I think should be done, which is no finding," Hardin said. "That all remains to be seen sometime this summer."
If that's the case, and the league does issue a suspension for Watson, the star quarterback could appeal to an independent arbitrator -- something that has yet to occur under the league's current collective bargaining agreement. While two Texas grand juries have declined to indict the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback on charges stemming from the allegations, he is still facing civil lawsuits and could be punished by the NFL should it be determined that he violated the league's personal conduct policy.
Hardin also revealed that while Watson met with the league over the course of three days last week, the investigation remains ongoing and that he believes that it will conclude "sometime in the summer." On Tuesday, two of the women accusing Watson are set to appear on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" to discuss their allegations and Watson's $230 million contract extension with the Browns.
Earlier this month, Watson admitted that a massage session with one of his accusers ended with the woman in tears, a leaked partial transcript of the interview revealed. Watson has thus far maintained his innocence, stating at his introductory press conference with the Browns in March: "I never assaulted, I never disrespected and I never harassed any woman in my life."