Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is committed to clearing his name of alleged sexual assault and misconduct even while anticipating an NFL suspension. But some executives inside the league office want the embattled former Texans star to be banned from play until all of his pending civil lawsuits are resolved, according to ProFootballTalk.
Watson is accused by 24 different women — reportedly soon to be 26 — of serial sexual abuse during private massage therapy sessions he sought during his Texans career. Despite the NFL investigating his conduct, he’s been fully available to practice with the Browns this offseason. Commissioner Roger Goodell has the power to place Watson, or any player under investigation, on the commissioner’s exempt list, which is essentially paid leave, but he’s yet to do so. Goodell previously suggested that criminal charges would’ve triggered use of the list, but two different Texas grand juries have declined to indict the QB this offseason.
Meanwhile, there’s been a divide among NFL leaders since before recent developments in Watson’s case as to whether the former first-round pick should be permitted on the field at all, per PFT:
(The) league is very concerned about the drip, drip, drip of more cases being filed. … The new cases, the looming cases, and the possibility for even more cases, coupled with (recent media coverage of Watson’s conduct), have given more credibility to those in the league office who want Watson to be sidelined until the litigation has completely ended.
It’s possible the NFL will announce a suspension for Watson, who does not have to be criminally charged to be considered in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy, in the next month or so. But it’s also possible he could fulfill his expected suspension and return to the field before resolving his civil suits, hence reported concern over his lack of discipline to date. Watson, meanwhile, has sworn innocence in every public appearance regarding the allegations against him, even declining to offer any remorse for his own actions.