CLEVELAND — It appears that Deshaun Watson will indeed make his debut as the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns tonight when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason opener.
According to ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio and ESPN's Dan Graziano, no decision in the NFL's appeal of Watson's six-game suspension is expected prior to this evening's kickoff. The six-game suspension was handed down to Watson by former Federal Court Judge Sue L. Robinson after accusations of sexual assault and harassment by two dozen women in Texas.
Watson's appeal case is being heard by former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey. The NFL is seeking an indefinite suspension of at least one year for Watson and a fine around $8 million.
However, a settlement between the NFL and the players union is still possible, according to Florio. On Thursday night, the Associated Press reported that Watson and the NFLPA would be willing to accept an eight-game suspension and a fine of up to $5 million.
While Watson has settled 23 of 24 the civil suits accusing him of sexual misconduct, the league's disciplinary process has focused on the allegations of four specific accusers.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, the appeal gave Goodell authority to enact a punishment, which he previously did under the old CBA. But Goodell instead chose Harvey, currently a partner at a law firm in New York, to hear the appeal.
Florio reports that there's a "growing sense" that Harvey may not issue a ruling today, so that the two sides can try to work something out.
During the league's owners meeting in Minneapolis on Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said appealing the Watson suspension in favor of a harsher penalty is "the right thing to do."
"Because we've seen the evidence," Goodell explained as to why the league is pressing for a full-season suspension of Watson. "She (Robinson) was very clear about the evidence. She reinforced the evidence that there [were] multiple violations here. They were egregious and it was predatory behavior. Those were things we thought were always important for us to address in a way that's responsible."
The Associated Press' Rob Maaddi and Tom Withers contributed to this story