Timing Of NFL’s Deshaun Watson Decision Is Doing Damage To The Cleveland Browns

Will it come today? Maybe a decision on a potential Deshaun Watson suspension for violation of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy will drop late in the afternoon after so many people have already logged off their news feeds because, not surprisingly, this isn’t a feel-good story for anyone.

But maybe we have to keep waiting because league disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson is a former federal judge and she’s taking meticulous care and to come to a Watson decision. And like most judges, she doesn’t want her ruling overturned.

Whatever the timing — today or next week or the week after — it’s already too late. And already unfair to the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns opened their training camp this week with the Watson cloud hanging overhead. And it has refused to go away.

So while other teams concern themselves with red zone drills and installing an offense and defense, the bigger issue for the Browns is whether the starting quarterback will be around for the start of the season.

Or any part of the season.

The Browns, I’m told, are as much in the dark about the length of a possible suspension as you and me. They’ve not been certain if it’s going to be four games, or six games or an indefinite suspension that will be revisited after one year.

But privately they seem quite sure there will be some sanction.

And they’ve tried to be prepared for that possibility.

They’re comfortable that Jacoby Brissett can win games as the quarterback if/when Watson isn’t available. And they’re trying to get a feel for former first-round pick Josh Rosen as a possible backup — although there’s no certainty on that front yet.

There are no plans, so far, to engage with the San Francisco 49ers about a possible Jimmy Garoppolo trade although the Browns lead the NFL with over $48 million in cap space that makes that move possible.

All this because Watson is facing discipline for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after 24 women filed lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct of varying degrees during massage appoints Watson booked over an 17-month period from 2019-20. 

And here’s the thing: The Browns knew what they were getting themselves into when they traded three first-round pick to the Houston Texans and signed Watson to a $230 million contract. They understood there might be repercussions that cost Watson to miss games.

But no one told them they’d have to wait past the opening of this training camp to learn what the situation was going to be. No one warned them the NFL would tarry and force them to adjust on the fly whenever a ruling came during camp.

And so, thanks to a timetable that is starting to seem delayed if not downright odd, the Browns are going about their daily business of preparing for the coming season. And all the while everyone kind of understands that’s almost the second-most important issue they face.

Because knowing who the starting quarterback is a building block for the season.

I say all this while reminding you Robinson held three days of disciplinary hearings with Watson ending June 30. The facts have not changed since then because Watson actually settled with 20 of his accusers prior to that hearing with Robinson.

So what’s the hold up?

That’s what reporters are asking Browns players and coaches every day — a super-fun exercise for everyone, I’m sure.

Do you check for Watson news in the morning?

What if he’s gone for the entire season?

Can you win without Watson?

Receiver Amari Cooper, starting his ninth season on his third team, has played with seven starting quarterbacks in the past. But he has no idea who No. 8 is going to be.

“This isn’t my first year in the league or my first year playing football,” Cooper told reporters Thursday. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with a lot of different quarterbacks.

“I think I’ve played with most types. I think I’ve played with guys who’ve released the ball fast. I’ve played with guys who throw hard. It’ll be just adjusting to who’s back there.”

Yeah, but how will things change if the grand hope for the season starts on the suspended list? Does that ruin the season before it begins?

“It doesn’t change regardless,” Linebacker Myles Garrett told reporters. “…We’re going to hold ourselves to a higher standard no matter what happens … Last time I heard, they can’t win if they don’t score points.”

I’m sure Brissett and the other quarterbacks don’t love that kind of talk because it suggests a lack of confidence in their abilities to perform in Watson’s absence.

But things like this are said when all anyone can do is speculate about what’s going to happen. That’s why it’s time for the NFL to end the speculation and announce a ruling.

Today would be good.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

8 Comments

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  1. Thanks for screening my comment earlier Outkick. Is this a satire account? No one feels sorry for D. Watson or the Browns. The Browns were dumb enough to throw money at an alleged sexual predator who isn’t a winner. Good luch with that and no one cares.

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