Sue L. Robinson, the disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the NFL and the players’ union, is expected to render a ruling Monday on whether Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy. following accusations of sexual misconduct, sources have confirmed to ESPN.
Meanwhile, Watson has agreed to settle three of four civil lawsuits pending against him, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee told ESPN’s John Barr early Monday morning.
If Robinson, a former U.S. District Judge, imposes a penalty, each side will have three days to appeal in writing. In such event, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designate “will render a written decision which shall constitute a full, final and complete resolution of the dispute”, pursuant to the terms of Article 46 of the collective agreement.
The NFL Players Association has already made it clear in a statement Sunday evening that it will not appeal.
“Prior to Judge Robinson’s decision, we wanted to reiterate the facts of this proceeding,” the union said in a statement. “First, we have fully cooperated with each NFL investigation and provided the NFL with the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct policy investigation. A former federal judge – jointly appointed by the NFLPA and the NFL – held a full and fair hearing, read thousands of pages of investigative materials and considered both parties’ arguments impartially Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished by the whims of the League office, which is why, whatever his decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by his decision and we call on the NFL to do the same.
Robinson heard arguments from the league, union and Watson’s attorney during a three-day hearing held in his home state of Delaware in late June. The parties discussed a potential settlement throughout the hearing, but could not agree on a deal.
The league and Watson’s team have been engaged in new settlement negotiations in recent days, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano, but neither side has ever felt close to a OK. The most Watson’s team indicated they were willing to offer was a suspension in the range of six to eight games, sources said. The best the league has indicated it is willing to offer was a 12-game suspension and a significant fine – in the range of $8 million, sources said.
Watson was charged with sexual assault and improper conduct during massage sessions in civil lawsuits brought by 25 women. The encounters cited in the lawsuits took place between March 2020 and March 2021, when Watson was a member of the Houston Texans. One of the 25 lawsuits was dropped following a judge’s ruling in April 2021 that the plaintiffs should amend their motions to release their names. In June, Watson settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits he faced; On Monday, he agreed to settle three of the other four, according to Buzbee, who represents the women suing Watson.
Last month, the Texans reached settlements with 30 women who made claims or were willing to make claims against the organization for its alleged role in the allegations against Watson.
Although two grand juries in Texas declined to prosecute Watson earlier this year, the NFL is investigating whether he has violated its personal conduct policy since last year. The NFL interviewed Watson for several days earlier this summer. League investigators also spoke to several of the women.
Watson has always denied any wrongdoing and said he does not regret any of his actions during the massage sessions. Watson also said he cooperated with the NFL’s investigation and “answered all questions honestly” put to him by league investigators.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending three first-round picks to the Texans. Cleveland then gave Watson a new, fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million deal, the richest deal in NFL history for any player.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said last week that Jacoby Brissett would become Cleveland’s starter if Watson were to be suspended. The Browns had Sunday off from training camp, but are scheduled to resume practice Monday.
CBS Sports first reported that Robinson’s decision is expected on Monday.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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