The NFL seeks at least one-year ban on Deshaun Watson at Tuesday hearing

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The NFL is preparing to demand an indefinite suspension of at least one year for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson at a hearing set to begin Tuesday before the sport’s new disciplinary officer, according to a person familiar with the case.

The league will maintain that Watson, who has been charged with sexual misconduct in twenty civil codes filed by the women, violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and should be suspended without pay for at least the 2022 season, that person said. Watson would have to file for his reinstatement under the league’s proposed penalty.

The NFL Players Association is expected to discuss formation of U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson, the discipline officer appointed jointly by the league and the NFLPA, for a less stringent discipline against Watson, perhaps not seeking comment at all.

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Robinson will issue the initial disciplinary judgment, under the revised Personal Conduct Policy in place with the Collective Bargaining Agreement finalized in 2020.

If Robinson rules that Watson has violated the conduct policy and imposes disciplinary action, the league or union can appeal the sanction to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or whomever he designates. If Robinson rules that Watson did not violate the policy, the case will be closed, with no possibility of appeal.

Under the previous version of the Conduct Policy, Goodell was authorized to issue the initial disciplinary judgment and resolve any appeal. This is the first case under the new system.

It is not clear how long the hearing will last or when Robinson will issue a preliminary ruling. The NFL aims to resolve the entire issue, including any appeal, before training camp, a person familiar with the matter previously said. Brown, who completed a deal with the Houston Texans for Watson in this off-season, has the first full training involving veteran players scheduled for July 27.

Watson has not been charged with a crime and has denied the allegations against him. He reached settlements in 20 of the 24 then-existing civil lawsuits against him, according to Tony Busby, an attorney representing the women. Busby said when the settlements were announced that the terms would be kept secret. He said he expects the remaining four cases to be adjudicated in court.

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The NFL said when the civil settlements were announced that they would have “no impact” on the league’s disciplinary process. The Personal Conduct Policy allows disciplinary action to be imposed without criminal charges.

The league’s plan to seek a suspension for at least a year comes as no surprise to those defending Watson in this case. Several people familiar with the case said a week ago that the NFL would seek a “significant” suspension for Watson. Someone on Watson’s side of the case said at the time that the league was “probably” asking for a suspension for one full season.

The NFLPA is expected to cite, among other things, the NFL’s decision not to comment owners Daniel Snyder of the Washington captains, Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys for incidents involving them and their teams.

Watson earned a base salary of $1.035 million for the 2022 season as part of a five-year contract signed with Brown worth $230 million. That salary will be forfeited if he is suspended for the entire season, and the NFL will likely seek an additional fine.

Watson did not play last season. The Texas team put him on the inactive list for Game Day on a weekly basis. But he did not stop working and paid his full salary.

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