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NFLPA won’t appeal Deshaun Watson ruling and urges NFL to do likewise; NFL will retain the right to appeal – cleveland.com

NFLPA won’t appeal Deshaun Watson ruling and urges NFL to do likewise; NFL will retain the right to appeal - cleveland.com
Written by admin sati

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The NFL Players Association issued a statement Sunday night stating that it won’t appeal NFL Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson’s ruling on Deshaun Watson’s case under the Personal Conduct Policy, and has urged the NFL to do likewise.

But the NFL has no plans to surrender its right to appeal, which both sides are afforded under the collectively bargained revisions to the policy in 2020 after the union fought for reform.

Robinson has told the parties involved — the NFL, NFL Players Association and Watson’s camp — that she’ll inform them of her decision by 9 a.m. Monday, two sources told cleveland.com.

The NFL has argued vehemently for an indefinite suspension of at least the 2022 season, with a chance to apply for reinstatement afterward.

The NFLPA, led by attorney Jeffrey Kessler, has argued for a much shorter ban or none at all, largely on the grounds that NFL owners such as Dallas’ Jerry Jones, Washington’s Daniel Snyder and New England’s Robert Kraft weren’t punished for their direct or indirect involvement in sexual misconduct on the part of themselves or someone in their organizations.

Based on the NFLPA’s strongly worded statement, it’s clear the union wants Robinson’s ruling to stand, and to keep the matter away from Goodell, whose word would be final.

A source said the NFLPA issued the statement without inside knowledge of Robinson’s decision.

“In advance of Judge Robinson’s decision, we wanted to reiterate the facts of this proceeding,’’ the NFLPA’s statement read. “First, we have fully cooperated with every NFL inquiry and provided the NFL with the most comprehensive set of information for any personal conduct policy investigation. A former Federal Judge – appointed jointly by the NFLPA and NFL – held a full and fair hearing, has read thousands of pages of investigative documents and reviewed arguments from both sides impartially.

“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office. This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling and we call on the NFL to do the same.’’

The new rules from 2020 take the initial discipline out of Goodell’s hands and put it in those of the independent officer, jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA.

As long as sanctions are levied, Goodell or his designee upon appeal may overturn, reduce, modify or increase them. Both sides have three days to file an appeal.

ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported that the NFL and NFLPA engaged in settlement talks in recent days but didn’t get close, with Watson’s side indicating it would accept 6-8 games and the league willing to concede 12 but with a fine in the $8 million range.

According to the policy, “discipline may be a fine, a suspension for a fixed or indefinite period of time, a combination of the two, or banishment from the league with an opportunity to reapply. Discipline may also include a probationary period and conditions that must be met for reinstatement and to remain eligible to participate in the league.”

Watson’s case, arguably the highest-profile one in the NFL, is the first one under the new rules. It involves Watson being accused by nearly 30 massage therapists of sexual misconduct during appointments in 2020 and 2021 when he played for the Texans.

The NFL conducted a 15-month investigation, led by attorney Lisa Friel, which included interviews with some of the accusers and Watson for a period of four days on two occasions.

Watson, 26, has settled 20 of the 24 civil suits against him, with four pending. All of the plaintiffs are represented by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee.

Thirty of his accusers have settled their claims or intended claims against the Houston Texans for enabling Watson’s alleged misconduct.

Robinson, who presided over a three-day hearing June 27-30 in Delaware attended by Watson, his lawyers, the NFL and NFLPA, requested post-hearing briefs that were due July 12. From that point, the estimated time frame for a decision was the first week of August.

Watson’s camp remains optimistic that he’ll play at some point this season, sources tell cleveland.com, while the NFL has remained mum throughout the process.

In the meantime, Watson has taken all the first-team snaps in training camp, and the Browns are making a concerted effort to establish him as the starting quarterback of the team even though he’s expected to miss at least part of the season. Jacoby Brissett has taken all of the second-team reps and will start in Watson’s place for games he’s suspended.

“[Watson] can do everything,’’ receiver Amari Cooper said Thursday. “I call him the magician. He just makes plays out there. He’s incredible, some of the stuff I’ve seen on film with, shoot, going back to Clemson. He just makes it happen so he’s definitely up there at the top (of the QBs he played with).”

Coach Kevin Stefanski has set the tone for his squad of not fretting about the looming suspension.

“You control the controllables,’’ he said. “Really as you know, I control what goes on on this field so I continue to do that. All of my discussions with Deshaun or any of the guys on the team, we will keep internal.’’

Watson, who got an enthusiastic reception from fans on the first day of training camp open to the public on Saturday, has yet to address the media since full-squad camp officially opened Wednesday, and might not do so until the final suspension is determined.

If Watson is suspended for a specific number of games and not banished (with a chance to apply for reinstatement), he’ll be permitted to practice with the team until the week leading up to the opener Sept. 11 in Carolina. That includes all of training camp, which is open to the public through Aug. 16.

If he’s suspended for a specific number of games, he’ll be permitted to work in the Browns facility halfway through the suspension, and participate in limited team activities to get reacclimated to the club.

On Saturday, Watson was cheered by fans as he ran onto the practice field and when he completed passes to players such as Demetric Felton, Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Njoku. After practice, he signed autographs and gave his signed cleats to two young boys who played him in rock, paper, scissors. Watson won both games, but gave up the cleats anyway, much to the delight of the boys.

Watson has maintained his innocence throughout the process, saying, “I never assaulted anyone; I never forced anyone.’’

Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges, the first of which touched off a competition for Watson’s services among the Browns, Saints, Panthers and Falcons. He chose the Browns after initially supposedly ruling them out first, with the Browns trading six draft picks for him, including three first-rounders.

The Browns also extended his contract, giving him a then-NFL record $230 million over five years. It was also the first fully guaranteed deal in the NFL. With the Browns lowering his 2022 base salary to $1.035 million, Watson will forfeit $57,500 for every game missed this season.

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