Are the Cleveland Browns trying to compel the NFL act on the Deshaun Watson decision sooner rather than later? Reportedly, at this point in time, the team intends to play its soon-to-be-suspended starting quarterback in the first preseason game.
Historical precedent suggests that players who have been handed season-long or indefinite suspensions have had those suspensions commence immediately, in contrast to clearly-defined shorter-length suspensions, such as Watson’s current six-game ban. Such players are permitted engage in all team activities up until the start of the regular season.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already gone on public record in stating that the league is indeed continuing to seek a season-long suspension for Watson, arguing that the evidence demands such a course of action.
He has appointed a third party, Peter Harvey, to handle the appeal of joint disciplinary officer Sue Robinson’s ruling of six games, and we are all simply waiting upon the ruling at this point. If it doesn’t come in time before the Browns are set to play, then they can play Watson.
We already know that the former Pro Bowler is not going to be available for the first six games of the season, at least, because his party did not appeal the original ruling. There is no going back from that at this point.
The only outstanding questions are how long he will be suspended beyond six games, and how soon the suspension will commence. If the appointee does echo the NFL’s position and agrees that Watson will be suspended for a full season or more, then we can expect that his suspension will begin immediately.
According to the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the appeal process is to be expedited. Theoretically, we should be hearing about a ruling any day now. In the meantime, Watson has been taking the majority of the first-team reps during training camp while the team also attempts to prepare Jacoby Brissett to be the starter for six or more games.
Cleveland plays tomorrow against the Jacksonville Jaguars, so unless the ruling comes in the next day, the Browns are threatening to play the most hated man in football right now. I will say this: I almost want him to play just to see what kind of reception he receives on the road. This game is in Jacksonville, not Cleveland.