CLEVELAND — On Monday morning, the NFL's Disciplinary Officer, former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson, suspended Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for the first six games of the 2022 NFL season for violating the league's personal conduct policy, according to multiple reports.
That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that Watson will be serving a six-game suspension.
Under the league's current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), while Robinson -- who was jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) -- issues the initial ruling in the case, either side has the ability to make an appeal. In a statement released on Sunday night, the NFLPA and Watson stated their intent not to appeal Robinson's ruling and implored the NFL not to either.
Whether or not the league will ultimately appeal remains unclear. How would such an appeal work? From Article 46, Section V of the 2020 CBA:
"The Disciplinary Officer’s disciplinary determination will be final and binding subject only to the right of either party to appeal to the Commissioner. The appeal shall be in writing within three business days of the Disciplinary Officer’s decision, and any response to the appeal shall be filed in writing within two business days thereafter. The appeal shall be limited to arguments why, based on the evidentiary record below, the amount of discipline, if any, should be modified. The Commissioner or his designee will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute and will be binding upon the player(s), Club(s) and the parties to this Agreement."
That NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the ability to make the ruling on any such appeal is notable, considering that the league was reportedly pushing for Watson to be suspended indefinitely and at a minimum, for one season. As noted in the CBA, any such modification to Robinson's ruling would need to be made on the basis of evidence that was provided at last month's disciplinary hearing in Delaware.
Last month, the league presented evidence from five cases -- one of which was thrown out -- regarding allegations of sexual misconduct made against Watson during his time as a member of the Houston Texans. Dating back to last year, 25 women filed civil lawsuits against the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who has since settled 23 of those cases, with a 24th having been dropped.
Two Texas grand juries have also declined to indict Watson on any criminal charges regarding the allegations. The Texans have reached settlements with 30 women regarding allegations that they enabled the star quarterback's behavior.
Should Watson's suspension stand at six games, he is scheduled to make his Browns debut on the road vs. the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 23. Veteran free agent signee Jacoby Brissett is currently expected to start at quarterback for Cleveland in Watson's absence.