Deshaun Watson's attorney expects NFL to 'want to talk' to Browns QB again, decide discipline by June or July

Deshaun Watson’s attorney expects NFL to ‘want to talk’ to Browns QB again, decide discipline by June or July

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Deshaun Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, believes the NFL will make its initial decision on Watson’s possible discipline by June or July, and they’ll want to speak to Watson again first.

“We should know what their position is initially in June, and then everyone will figure out if there’s going to be a hearing on it or if people can work things out, or whatever,” Hardin told cleveland.com by phone on Friday evening. “The only thing that’s certain is that they want to try and do everything this summer – and sooner rather than later in the summer. Beyond that, we don’t really have any dates or possibilities. farms.

Hardin also said “we expect them to want to talk to him again” in a series of interviews regarding the massage therapists’ 24 allegations of sexual misconduct on dates. Two separate grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal charges, but 22 therapists have civil lawsuits against him, including 20 that accuse him of sexual harassment and two of sexual assault.

Hardin said Watson cooperated fully with NFL investigators Lisa Friel and Jennifer Gaffney during three days of questioning Monday through Wednesday in Houston, but the review under the personal conduct policy is ongoing. On Thursday, Watson flew about 30 members of the Browns offense by private jet to the Bahamas for three days of fieldwork and team building, all at his own expense.

“This idea that [the NFL] didn’t investigate aggressively, that’s totally, totally wrong, as evidenced by the fact that he’s already spent three days with them,’ Hardin said. “They’ve obviously done a lot of research and done a lot of the work themselves and they’re saying they need to do more.”

Hardin is preparing for Tuesday night’s episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, during which Soledad O’Brien interviewed several of Watson’s accusers.

“I don’t know how it’s going to go, but I’m not optimistic,” he said. “I believe they will broadcast the women’s accusations without trying to look back to see what kind of merit they have.”

According to HBO’s press release, the accusers, conducting their first-ever national interviews, spoke with O’Brien about the alleged sexual misconduct they say they suffered, as well as Watson’s fully guaranteed $230 million contract. with the Browns.

HBO declined to tell cleveland.com which of the accusers will appear on the show or provide further details. O’Brien, responding to a Twitter post announcing the episode, replied, “It’s a really good story. I hope you will watch.”

Hardin said such interviews are planned as the civil lawsuit unfolds and understands they will not help Watson’s case.

“My approach has always been that we weren’t going to win the battle of public opinion,” Hardin said. “And my goal has always been to have these cases investigated by law enforcement and I strongly believed that trained investigators would eventually conclude that there was nothing to them from a criminal point of view and c is where my focus has always been.

“I thought that was the most important thing to NFL teams and with the exception of Miami, that’s true.”

He said once the criminal element is removed, “the ball would move to the NFL, and that’s where we are.”

Hardin said “no settlement negotiations are in sight” regarding the civil lawsuits and that Watson and his team are awaiting the NFL’s decision. Watson continues to cooperate in civil litigation and will provide two depositions daily from June 21-23, during the six-week break between Browns’ mandatory minicamp and training camp.

Hardin said he hopes Major League Baseball’s 324-game suspension of former Indians and current Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer over domestic violence and sexual assault allegations won’t affect Watson’s discipline. in the NFL. Bauer, who also has not been criminally charged, denies the allegations and is appealing.

“I’ll try to be optimistic and say it won’t have any effect,” Hardin said. “Because it has no logical connection.”

Once Friel and Gaffney complete their investigation, they will deliver their findings to former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson, who will determine whether or not to sanction Watson. Sanctions may include a fixed or indefinite suspension, a fine or a combination of both, or banishment from the NFL with the possibility of reapplying. Discipline may also include a probationary period with conditions that must be met for reinstatement or continued participation.

If Watson appeals the decision, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designate may rescind or modify the discipline as they see fit, and their decision will be final. If Watson is suspended for all or part of the 2022 season, replacement quarterback Jacoby Brissett will start in his place.

The Browns have arguably the easiest first four games of any NFL team — at Carolina, at home against the Jets and Steelers, and at the Falcons — but NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told cleveland.com last week that Watson’s possible suspension had no bearing on the schedule. .

After Watson and his teammates return from the Bahamas, next week they will begin team activities held at the team’s headquarters in Berea, which consists of 10 full team practices over the next three weeks. The program concludes with the mandatory minicamp from June 14-16, then the veterans are off until the start of training camp at the end of July.

Lawyers for both sides have agreed not to stand trial between Aug. 1 and March 1, meaning Watson can participate in the NFL season depending on his possible suspension.

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