Roger Goodell explains why the NFL appealed Deshaun Watson’s suspension

BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns were debating quarterback plans Tuesday for their preseason opener. Meanwhile, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was doubling down on the league’s desire that one of those quarterbacks not play again for a long time.

The only thing known for sure right now specifically about Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is that he was on the field for Tuesday’s training camp practice. He’s also expected to be on the plane with the rest of his teammates when they depart Wednesday afternoon for Jacksonville, where they open the preseason schedule Friday night.

After that, everyone can guess. Goodell, speaking to reporters at NFL owners’ meetings in Minneapolis on Tuesday, reiterated his wish that Watson’s initial six-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy be extended on appeal to at least a full season. .

“Because we’ve seen the evidence,” Goodell said. “[Disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson] was very clear on the evidence. She reinforced the evidence, that there had been multiple violations here and that they were egregious, and that it was predatory behavior. These are still things that we felt were really important to address and in a responsible way.”

Robinson spent just over a month considering a decision at Watson’s initial disciplinary hearing, which took place June 28-30. She issued her decision in a 16-page document on August 1, sentencing the Browns quarterback to a six-game suspension, while saying he must use the team to arrange all future massages with approved masseuses. by the team, while staying away. any other legal issues.

The NFL, following the collective agreement ratified in 2020, filed a written appeal last Wednesday. The NFL Players Association then filed its written response to the appeal last Friday.

While the original decision was handled by an independent arbitrator jointly chosen by the league and the players’ union, the appeal lies with Goodell, or a person designated by him. Goodell chose former New Jersey attorney general and NFL Diversity Council member Peter C. Harvey as his representative last Thursday.

“It’s part of the ABCs,” Goodell said of the call. “Both parties had that right. Either party could certainly challenge and appeal and that was something that we felt was our right to do as well as the NFLPA, so we decided it was the right thing to do.”

Goodell told reporters he had no idea when to make a decision on Harvey, whose decision is limited by the personal conduct policy to reviewing the disciplinary terms imposed by Robinson and based on a review of the existing record without reference to evidence or testimony. not considered before. The NFLPA has reportedly requested a hearing as part of the appeal, though that’s something that’s usually handled strictly through filings.

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Watson’s discipline comes from more than two dozen allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage dates by women hired by him while still the quarterback for the Houston Texans. The Browns acquired Watson by trade on March 18.

Almost five months later, Watson’s new team is due to play its first pre-season game. What’s not known is how many, or even if, he will play against the Jaguars.

Coach Kevin Stefanski said ahead of Tuesday’s training camp practice that he had a plan in place for how he was going to use the team’s quarterbacks, particularly Watson and Jacoby Brissett, in Jacksonville. However, he refrained from publicly announcing what that plan would be.

“I haven’t shared it with the team yet,” Stefanski said. “So I will wait to announce it. We have a framework on how we are going to manage this pre-season. As you know, you always reserve the right to change your mind depending on how training goes. and stuff like that. We’re pretty confident in the plan we have.”

The decision could be announced as early as Wednesday. The Browns will perform a closed practice early in the afternoon before departing for Sunshine State.

Watson and Brissett have each received first-team offensive snaps since July 30, an eight-game stretch in training camp. Watson is still getting a significantly higher number of those reps, but the fact that Brissett is getting some is a significant change from any previous offseason, minicamp, or even boot camp workout.

Stefanski’s swashbuckling approach to his quarterback management plan in Jacksonville mirrored the way he’s handled it since the team opened its offseason program in April.

“I’m confident in our plan,” Stefanski said. “Obviously, as I told you, we will adjust based on the information. I’m comfortable with what Jacoby has done so far with his reps. He’s had a lot of it. He’s had it. had with one and others with both, and we will stick to our plan in the absence of any new information.

Contact Chris at [email protected] or on Twitter: @ceasterlingABJ

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