The situation surrounding the expected punishment of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reached a point where it is almost all just indecipherable background noise, similar to an adult talking on a Charlie Brown cartoon.
Literally no one - not Watson, not attorneys Rusty Hardin and Tony Buzbee, not the NFL or the NFLPA, probably not even Sue L. Robinson, the jointly-appointed disciplinary officer who is currently working on her ruling - has any idea just what level of punishment Watson will receive for his possible violation of the league’s conduct policy.
But that has not stopped the leaks to the media and the subsequent speculation about how this will work out. Lifetime ban? Multi-year suspension? Half a season? Nothing?
No. one. knows.
This leads us to the latest bit of speculation from Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who cites an unnamed league source who believes the Browns are “privately bracing themselves” for an eight-game suspension of Watson.
The Browns are quietly bracing for an eight-game Deshaun Watson suspension. https://t.co/OnwR2Xqa1n— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 19, 2022
That comes a day after Charles Robinson, a senior NFL reporter at Yahoo Sports, sent out a Tweet that if Watson receives a yearlong suspension, or more, the NFLPA and Watson’s legal team will be taking the matter to federal court.
Another note: If Watson ends up incurring the full-year suspension the #NFL is seeking - either from the arbitrator or a league appeal of Robinson’s decision - I’m told his camp and the @NFLPA have already made the decision to file a lawsuit against the league in federal court. https://t.co/KdwXJjhBz3— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) July 18, 2022
Again, no one knows how this is going to ultimately play out, but there are likely a couple of hard truths in all this.
The first is that if Watson is suspended for eight games, the Browns would likely consider that as close to a win that they could find in all this. Eight games, which includes games against the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons, then the bye week, and the matter is concluded in the eyes of the NFL would hardly raise the collective blood pressure at team headquarters in Berea.
The second is, as much as everyone wants this to have some level of closure, it really does not matter so much when Robinson issues her ruling unless her decision would kick off a lengthy appeals process.
As long as Robinson is deliberating, Watson can still practice with the Browns and play in the preseason if head coach Kevin Stefanski decides that is the way to go. Even if the Browns were to learn tomorrow that they would open the season without Watson, the opening weeks of training camp would probably still play out the same way when it comes to splitting practice reps between Watson and backup Jacoby Brissett.
Watson has not played since the end of the 2020 season, so he going to need those reps to shake off the rust that has accumulated since the last time he took the field.
As long as Robinson’s ruling does not come out the day before the season opener on September 11 against the Carolina Panthers, the Cleveland coaching staff is smart enough to work through this particular problem and find an acceptable solution.
Until then, Browns fans just need to keep living with the noise surrounding Watson as best they can.