Goodell says Deshaun Watson deserves one-year ban for ‘predatory behavior’ | Cleveland Browns

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he believes the league should continue to push for a year-long suspension for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for his “outrageous” and “predatory behavior” toward women.

During the owners’ meetings on Tuesday, Goodell spoke about the league’s decision to appeal a six-game suspension given to Watson by Sue L Robinson, a former federal judge appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association as a independent disciplinary officer of the league.

Robinson learned that Watson violated the league’s conduct policy after being accused of sexual assault or harassment by two dozen women while playing for Houston. Watson has resolved 23 of the 24 lawsuits filed by the women, though he has denied any allegations.

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The league demanded an indefinite suspension and a fine for Watson, and said Robinson’s six-game suspension was not enough. Goodell cited the collective bargaining agreement to allow the league to seek further discipline.

“Any side could certainly challenge that and appeal and that was something that we felt was our right to do, as well as NFLPA,” Goodell said. “So we decided this was the right thing to do.”

Watson’s fate now rests with Peter C Harvey, a former New Jersey Attorney General chosen by Goodell to hear the appeal. Harvey has previously worked as an arbitrator in competition cases.

Goodell said the league is pushing for a one-year sentence for Watson over the evidence against the 26-year-old, who was accused of being sexually inappropriate with the women during massage therapy sessions while with the Texans in 2020 and 2021.

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In her 16-page statement, Robinson concluded that Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy with his conduct, using both “outrageous” and “predatory” to describe his actions.

Goodell was asked why the league is looking for a tougher penalty.

“Because we’ve seen the evidence,” he said. “She [Robinson] was very clear about the evidence. She reinforced the evidence that there were multiple violations here and that they were blatant, and that it was predatory behavior. Those were always things that we felt were really important for us to tackle and in a responsible way.”

Goodell has no idea when Harvey will make a decision. There is no specific deadline for Harvey, but career policy requires it to be “accelerated.” There also remains the possibility that the parties can reach a settlement.

While attending the Minnesota meetings, Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam had little to say about the pending appeal. “We will respect and respect the process,” he told reporters

Meanwhile, Watson’s playing status for the Browns’ exhibition opener is unknown. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has not revealed whether Watson will play in Friday’s game in Jacksonville. Stefanski said the team has a plan, but he won’t make it public until he tells his players.

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“We have a framework for how we are going to approach this pre-season,” he said. “As you know, you always reserve the right to change your mind based on how the practice goes and things like that, but we’re pretty confident in the plan we have.”

Stefanski said Watson will make the trip to Florida. The three-time Pro Bowler has not played since 2020. Last season, he was sidelined after demanding a swap and before the allegations came to light.

Cleveland’s plan was to start Jacoby Brissett while Watson is serving his suspension. But now that it’s possible it will cover most if not all of the season, there’s a chance the team could be looking out for a new quarterback. Josh Rosen and Josh Dobbs are also on Cleveland’s roster and are expected to get most of the game time during the exhibition season.

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