The Cleveland Browns traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson on March 18 knowing that Watson may face discipline from the NFL Office stemming from civil lawsuits filed by 22 women who have accused him of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault.
On Tuesday at the NFL Owners Meeting, Commissioner Roger Goodall addressed the issue and said there is “no timeframe” for when the league will make a determination on Watson’s status, according to a report from The Athletic (paywalled):
“Our people are working on it, obviously these are serious charges so we’re looking at this seriously. We now have at least resolution from, the criminal side of it, there’s still civil charges that are going on. Our investigation will hopefully have access to more information and that will be helpful to getting to the conclusion of the facts.”
Goodell also said the league informed all of the teams interested in acquiring Watson that the league’s personal conduct policy is still in play for disciplining Watson. But Goodell also dropped in that the league is still deciding “if any discipline” needs to be applied in this matter, according to The Athletic:
“We’ve been very clear with every club that whether the criminal matter gets resolved or not, the personal conduct policy is something that’s very important to us. It does not need a criminal violation to be a violation of the personal conduct policy. They recognize we’re going to make sure we get to the bottom of the facts and how it applies to the personal conduct policy. And when we get to that a decision will be made of if there should be any discipline and if so what is it.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell very clear here—it’ll likely be a suspension/fine or nothing for Deshaun Watson. Commissioner’s exempt list not in play. pic.twitter.com/vSMlcuWhQU— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 29, 2022
Even if the NFL decides that Watson does not deserve a suspension under the personal conduct policy, Goodell could always use the commissioner’s exempt list to sideline Watson, but since he has not currently been charged with a crime, that might not even be an option (quote via The Beacon Journal):
“I think we were very clear last year that the civil cases were in play over the last year also. The only thing that’s changed is the criminal element has been at least resolved. And that was an important element in the context of the commissioner’s exempt [list] that we discussed with our players association.
“If the criminal had proceeded, that would more likely have triggered commissioner’s exempt. I think at this point, a civil case in and of itself would not do that. If there’s a violation of the personal conduct policy, that may trigger something, but that would more likely trigger some kind of discipline in some fashion.”
This is far from over, obviously, but Goodell’s comments could be taken as the NFL will either not suspend Watson at all, or any discipline would fall far short of the speculation that Watson would be suspended for an entire season.