CLEVELAND — Two weeks after the NFL first announced that it was appealing the six-game suspension that former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson issued for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, a resolution appears to be nearing.
How it will come about, however, remains unclear.
According to ESPN's Dan Graziano, talks between the league and Watson on a potential settlement have "heightened" in hopes of avoiding a decision on the matter from former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey. Should Harvey -- who NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed as his designee to rule on the appeal -- make a decision prior to a settlement, the ruling would be considered binding and final, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Once Harvey makes a ruling or the NFL and Watson reach a settlement, it would bring an end to months of speculation regarding the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback's football future following several allegations of sexual misconduct. On Aug. 1, Robinson issued a six-game suspension for Watson after determining that the Clemson product violated the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy on the following three counts:
- Conduct that Qualifies as a Sexual Assault
- Conduct that Poses a Genuine Danger to the Safety and Well-Being of Another Person
- Conduct that Undermines, or Puts at Risk, the Integrity of the NFL
While Robinson had been jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to serve as the disciplinary officer in such matters, the league exercised its ability under the CBA to make an appeal to either Goodell or a designee of his choosing. Speaking to reporters last week, Goodell confirmed that the league was seeking an indefinite suspension of no less than a year, calling Watson's behavior "predatory" and "egregious."
While his disciplinary case with the NFL focused on four specific accusers, Watson has reached settlements on 23 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, including harassment and assault during his time with the Texans. One related civil case remains ongoing.
Two Texas grand juries have declined to indict Watson on criminal charges as a result of the accusations. Prior to the Browns' preseason opener last week, the 26-year-old issued an apology to the women who he has affected with his behavior.
“Look, I want to say that I’m truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation,” Watson told Browns' preseason sideline reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala in a pregame interview. "The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward.”
Last month the Texans, reached settlements with 30 women regarding allegations that they enabled the star quarterback's behavior during his time with the team. In a statement, the Texans said they admitted no guilt in making the settlements.