NFL Looks to Hammer Browns’ Watson With Unprecedented Suspension: Report

Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

Getty Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns listens to questions during press conference after the Cleveland Browns mandatory minicamp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on June 14, 2022 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

The picture of Deshaun Watson’s suspension for violating the NFL’s player conduct policy became considerably clearer Wednesday, and the outlook isn’t good for the Cleveland Browns.

The quarterback’s official disciplinary hearing began on Tuesday, June 28. The precise length of the proceedings as well as a firm timetable for a decision on Watson’s punishment — if, in fact, any suspension is handed down — both remain unknown. Two key elements of the hearing that have come to light, however, are that the NFL is seeking an indefinite suspension for Watson and that the minimum suspension the quarterback is likely to face is between six and eight regular season games.

Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press reported background information on the developing story Monday via Twitter.

I’m told the NFL insisted on an indefinite suspension, while Deshaun Watson’s legal team argued there’s no basis for that punishment. The hearing will continue on Wednesday in Delaware and Watson is expected to be present for the duration.

More: I’m also told the NFL, despite insisting on indefinite suspension, wants to avoid the appeals process — source said, “A terrible situation for everyone involved” — so league is more likely to abide by Sue Robinson’s ruling IF she came back with 6-8 games.

Retired federal judge Sue L. Robinson, noted by Maaddi as the impartial arbiter in Watson’s case, will make a ruling on his suspension length per the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed by both the NFL and the NFL Players Union (NFLPA).

Commissioner Roger Goodell, or a league official appointed by him, reserves the right to appeal Robinson’s decision should the NFL find the punishment unsuitable for any reason.

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Browns Make Backup Plan For Watson Clear, Choose Jacoby Brissett

Jacoby Brissett, Miami Dolphins

GettyQuarterback Jacoby Brissett, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, would be the likely starter during Watson’s suspension.

The biggest question for Browns fans, aside from how many games Watson will watch from the sidelines in 2022, is who will start in his place?

Cleveland answered that question definitively over the weekend, when ESPN’s Jake Trotter reported that backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett will take the reins in Watson’s absence.

“If the NFL does suspend [Deshaun Watson], expect the Browns to enter training camp with Jacoby Brissett, not Baker Mayfield, as their starting quarterback,” Trotter said June 26 on “SportsCenter.”

Mayfield Leaves Sliver of Hope for Reconciliation With Browns

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

GettyBaker Mayfield

Though it has been generally assumed that Brissett would get the nod over Mayfield should Watson prove unavailable, there has been some doubt as to that outcome.

The Carolina Panthers have pursued a trade for Mayfield aggressively over the past several weeks, while the Seattle Seahawks also remain a landing spot for the quarterback. But the Browns have yet to make a deal, sparking speculation that they could hold onto Mayfield in case they need him early in 2022.

Trotter’s report indicates Mayfield is on his way out, as he is clearly the superior quarterback to Brissett based on overall career success and statistics, but is not Cleveland’s top choice behind Watson. However, that does not necessarily preclude the notion that Mayfield could be on the roster when the season begins. And if he is, there is at least a chance he could eventually see the field.

Mayfield was fairly clear that both he and the Browns are ready to part ways when speaking with the media at his youth camp in Norman, Oklahoma, on Tuesday. However, the way he phrased his response to a question about whether he would ever take another snap in Cleveland left the door to a potential reconciliation slightly ajar.

“No. I think for that to happen, there would have to be some reaching out,” Mayfield said. “But we’re ready to move on, I think, on both sides.”

It’s clear that the Browns have yet to offer Mayfield any sort of olive branch, though the chances they do are likely to increase the longer Watson’s suspension ultimately proves to be.

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