NFL ‘More Likely To Abide By’ Decision Of 6- To 8-Game Suspension For Watson (But It Could Still Come Down To Goodell)

You’ve got to hand it to the NFL: whether intentionally or not, they are simply so big and so pervasive that their product is constantly in the news cycle on a 365-day basis. Even when they don’t necessarily want it to be, such as when one of their young star athletes is facing a monumental scandal, such that scandal isn’t even an appropriate word to describe what it is alleged he has done.

The latest scandal-ridden young star is Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had his first hearing yesterday with the joint disciplinary administrator, Sue L. Robinson. The league has argued for an indefinite suspension of at least a year, while the NFLPA has tactically positioned to have no suspension at all.

According to Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, the league is hoping to avoid arbitration, the journalist has been told, writing on Twitter that it is “more likely to abide by Sue Robinson’s ruling IF she came back with 6-8 games”.

One has to wonder, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk does, if this is not a tactical leak to help influence Robinson to return at least some level of discipline in the form of suspension when she passes on her verdict in the case, whenever that might be.

As part of the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement, matters of discipline pass on to the joint disciplinary administrator, which for this term is Robinson; however, if either the NFL or NFLPA appeals the decision, then it is Commissioner Roger Goodell who ultimately decides upon the case, as was the setup prior to the most recent CBA.

Florio openly speculates that the angle here is to influence a ruling that they could then appeal and proceed to hand down the discipline that they always intended through Goodell, which is, as mentioned, an indefinite suspension of at least one year. Of course, Robinson could theoretically hand down that decision herself.

As Florio notes, the NFL is in no position to return a weak position against Watson, given the league’s past handling of disciplinary matters and the overall climate relating to sexual harassment and misconduct in the country.

While the joint disciplinary administrator provides the NFL with some degree of separation from the ultimate ruling, whatever it may be, the end result of a light punishment would be significant negative public relations blowback for the league.

Still, I think that the leak communicates at least something, which is that the NFL is dead set on making sure Watson receives a sizeable suspension, one way or another. 6-8 games isn’t nothing, in and of itself. But I also think it’s fair to surmise that they would appeal that ruling as well—even if the claim is otherwise.

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