Deshaun Watson's Suspension Extended

By Jason Hall

August 18, 2022

Cleveland Browns Introduce Quarterback Deshaun Watson
Photo: Getty Images

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy will reportedly be extended to 11 games and a $5 million fine will be implemented following a settlement between the National Football League and NFL Players Association, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Thursday (August 18).

"Breaking: NFL and NFLPA reached agreement on an 11-game suspension for Browns QB Deshaun Watson, per sources," Schefter tweeted. "The settlement also includes a fine of $5 million that will go to charity. Deal still is not signed but it is agreed to."

The NFL later confirmed the settlement in an official news release shared by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Watson will be eligible to return for the Browns' Week 13 matchup against the Houston Texans, his former team, on December 4.

The quarterback addressed reporters after the announced settlement on Thursday and denied "ever assaulting anyone or disrespecting anyone."

"I will continue to stand on my innocence and keep pushing forward," Watson said via Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. "I've always stood on not disrespecting or sexually assaulting anyone."

Watson was previously facing a six-game suspension handed down by appointed disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, but the NFL has appealed the ruling and plans to seek a one-year ban.

Watson recently started in the Browns' preseason opener -- his first NFL appearance since January 2020 -- and threw for seven yards and completed 1 of 5 pass attempts during a 24-13 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Browns' announcement that Watson would start came one day after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly said that the league has "seen the evidence" necessary to pursue a one-year ban for the quarterback, referring to Watson's alleged actions as "egregious" and "predatory behavior."

Goodell spoke publicly on Tuesday (August 9) following a special league meeting in Minneapolis to officially approve the sale of the Denver Broncos and addressed the NFL's decision to appeal Watson's six-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy previously handed down by appointed disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson.

"We've seen the evidence," Goodell said via NFL.com. "[Disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson] was very clear about the evidence, should we enforce the evidence. That there was multiple violations here, and they were egregious, and it was predatory behavior. Those are things that we always felt were important for us to address in a way that's responsible."

Earlier this month, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport shared a statement from NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy, which said, "the NFL notified the NFLPA that it will appeal Judge Robinson's disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon. Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal."

A source familiar with the appeal told NFL.com's Judy Battista that the league was seeking a full-year suspension for Watson at the time of the initial report.

Watson has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women, all of which is reported to have taken place during massage sessions in the Houston area between March 2020 and March 2021 during his tenure with the Texans.

A judge ruled to drop one of the 25 lawsuits in April after ruling that plaintiffs needed to amend their petitions to disclose their names, ESPN reports.

The Texans reached confidential settlements with the 30 women made claims or prepared to against the team's former quarterback, the plaintiffs' attorney, Tony Buzbee, announced in a statement obtained by NFL.com on July 15.

In June, Buzbee announced that 20 of the then-24 civil lawsuits against Watson were settled in a statement shared on June 21.

"The cases against Deshaun Watson started with one phone call, from one brave and strong woman. That woman was Ashley Solis," Buzbee said. "At the time of that call she was just one of the hundreds of calls seeking legal assistance that our firm gets weekly. Even though she was originally turned away by our screening process, my staff insisted that I personally speak with her. I'm glad she persisted. Once we took a second look, and after having contact with Watson's original lawyer who disrespected Ashley and her profession and who arrogantly minimized the conduct of someone he referred to as an 'asset,' I was convinced that our law firm should try to help her. As a result of Ashley's lone but brave voice, soon many women who had allegedly experienced the same conduct were emboldened to step forward. I am incredibly proud to represent them all"

Watson also previously reportedly agreed to settle three of the remaining four lawsuits, according to Buzbee via ESPN.

Watson faced 24 civil lawsuits from women accusing him of inappropriate sexual conduct during massage sessions, however, two Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges and the quarterback has maintained his innocence throughout the legal process.

In March, Schefter reported Watson chose to play for the Browns and waived his no-trade clause ahead of an agreed deal between the Browns and the Houston Texans.

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