CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns and quarterback Deshaun Watson continue to wait on the NFL to announce the findings of its investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made by over 20 women.
According to a story written on Friday in the Washington Post, the league believes that Watson should receive a “significant” suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
Citing a source from Watson's camp, reporter Mark Maske writes that the NFL “probably” will seek a suspension of one full season, however a person familiar with the league's view of the case cautioned to be “careful” about specifying a precise length at this point for the suspension the NFL will seek. But that person also said: “Significant would be the proper term.”
Meanwhile, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio adds that the NFL players association is currently is bracing for a recommendation by the league of “unprecedented” punishment of Watson.
Watson is currently facing 24 civil lawsuits by women accusing him of sexual misconduct, although a report out of Houston earlier this week indicated two more civil complaints would be filed soon.
Maske says the NFL is preparing to present the findings of its investigation to Sue L. Robinson, the former U.S. district judge who is the disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association under the current version of the conduct policy. The league hopes the entire disciplinary process, including the resolution of any potential appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person designated by him, is completed by the start of training camp, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
The case would be finished, with no appeals possible, if Robinson rules that there was no violation of the personal conduct policy. If she rules that there was a violation of the policy and imposes a penalty, either side could appeal to Goodell.
Florio says that the NFLPA plans to have "an aggressive defense" on Watson’s behalf, citing how the league handled off-the-field incidents involving three high-profile owners: Daniel Snyder of the Washington Commanders, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.
Earlier this week, Watson addressed his ongoing legal situation with reporters during the Browns minicamp practice in Berea. The 26-year-old reiterated his stance that he has "never assaulted, disrespected, or harassed anyone," and also took the time to thank the organization and the fans for "the support and just the welcoming of being a Cleveland Brown and what it really means."
"Everything's been pretty good," Watson said of his experience in Northeast Ohio so far. "I know that there's still legal proceedings still going on...I have to respect the process that is still going on, and I may [or] may not be able to answer [all of your] questions."
Watson claimed he had "answered every question truthfully" during sworn deposition, as well as the NFL's investigation into his behavior. "I've been honest and I've been truthful about my stance," Watson said of his denial of any wrongdoing, later adding, "I never forced anyone to do anything."
Watson's attorneys have admitted he engaged in what they believe to be "consensual" sexual activity with three of the known plaintiffs, but others allege the QB crossed several boundaries during scores of massage sessions during his time with the Houston Texans. Watson was also asked about a report from The New York Times claiming he received massages from at least 66 different women over a period of more than a year (not all of which resulted in misconduct allegations), and said he did not believe that number was accurate.
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