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Report: Deshaun Watson Suspension Negotiations 'Fell Apart' over Number of Games

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 23, 2022

Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Recent discussions over the length of the suspension that will be issued to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy "fell apart," according to CBS Sports HQ's Josina Anderson.

Anderson reported the NFL, NFL Players Association and advisors for Watson were unable to reach an agreement over how many games he would be suspended.

Amid numerous allegations and 24 civil lawsuits accusing Watson of sexual assault or misconduct during massage therapy sessions, he missed the entire 2021 season with the Houston Texans. But the league has yet to render a final judgment after launching its own investigation into the allegations.

In May, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was "nearing the end" of its inquiry. However, the New York Times' Jenny Vrentas reported on new allegations against Watson, a story that also implicated the Texans.

Per Vrentas, Watson said in a deposition he had alerted Houston's director of security, Brent Naccara, after a woman said she "could really expose you" in reference to the three-time Pro Bowler after he allegedly touched her and made unwanted sexual advances without her consent during massage sessions.

Watson said Naccara subsequently left a nondisclosure agreement in his locker, which he then began taking with him to massage appointments.

Per Vrentas, Watson also said in a deposition that the team had provided him with a membership to a private club and hotel where multiple massage therapy appointments were held and that membership was not in his name. One woman who had a massage appointment with Watson at the hotel said the room was under the name of a member of the Texans' training staff.

Vrentas' report led many to wonder whether the NFL's investigation would extend further or lengthen Watson's punishment.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske reported on June 17 the NFL believes Watson violated the league's personal conduct policy and should get a "significant" suspension. A season-long ban was cited as a possible outcome.

Mike Jones of USA Today also reported one year was the expected period of time.

Under the terms of the most recent collective bargaining agreement, the NFL cannot unilaterally hand down a suspension for Watson. An independent disciplinary officer—currently former district court judge Sue L. Robinson—weighs in as well, though the commissioner can amend the disciplinary officer's ruling when a suspension is deemed appropriate. Any suspension would also be eligible for appeal by the NFLPA.

"This first case being resolved under the new disciplinary system is a high-profile matter," Maske wrote. "A person on Watson’s side wondered whether Goodell might be reluctant to overturn the neutral arbitrator’s disciplinary ruling in the first case."

In the meantime, Watson has settled the majority of the civil lawsuits against him. Tony Buzbee, who represents the plaintiffs, said on Tuesday 20 of the 24 suits have been settled.

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