Rival AFC North Coach Shades Browns After Deshaun Watson Decision

Deshaun Watson

Getty Images Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.

If the six-game suspension handed down by Sue L. Robinson holds, Deshaun Watson will make his Cleveland Browns debut against the Baltimore Ravens on October 23.

He shouldn’t expect a warm reception from Ravens skipper John Harbaugh, who made it clear that he’s perturbed by the six-game ban for the Browns quarterback.

“I do have a lot of opinions on it,” Harbaugh told reporters Monday during his training camp press conference. “I’m just not at liberty to share them at this time. That’s for the league to decide.”

Watson has been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during message sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women. He has settled all but one of those lawsuits, with three settlements coming on Monday, August 1 prior to Robinson’s decision, per ESPN’s John Barr. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on criminal charges and the Browns QB has denied all wrongdoing.

“Throughout this process, Deshaun and his representatives have abided by the newly created and agreed upon process for the NFLPA and the NFL to defer to the objective Judge Sue L. Robinson to comprehensively review all information and make a fair decision,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. “We respect Judge Robinson’s decision, and at the same time, empathize and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process. We know Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him.”

Harbaugh Praises Ravens’ ‘Zero-Tolerance Policy’

Robinson said in her ruling that Watson violated the personal-conduct policy and added that, “Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.” She also noted the six-game suspension is the “most significant punishment ever imposed on an NFL player for allegations of non-violent sexual conduct.” The league has three days to appeal the ruling.

Harbaugh chose not to unleash publicly over the Watson decision, instead pointing to his own franchise for its “zero-tolerance policy.”

“I respect what [owner] Steve Bisciotti and [former team president] Dick Cass created here almost 10 years ago,” Harbaugh said. “Basically, we’re kind of zero tolerance. You have to know the truth, you have to try to understand the circumstances, but we’ve stayed away from that particular situation – when we draft players, when we sign them as free agents. That’s Steve’s decision, and I’m glad that we have that policy.”

While he wasn’t specific, that policy likely means the team will not take on or keep a player accused of sexual assault or domestic violence. However, that hasn’t always been the case in Baltimore. The Ravens most notably dealt with the Ray Rice situation in 2014 and faced criticism for how it was handled. That being said, the team has been very careful with selecting their personnel since.

Ravens Were Critical Over Deshaun Watson Contract

After landing Watson via a blockbuster trade, the Browns awarded him a fully-guaranteed $230 million contract. Bisciotti was an outspoken critic of the deal during the NFL Annual Meeting in March.

“It’s like, ‘Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract,’” Bisciotti said. “I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others.”

The Ravens are currently trying to lock up their former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson with a long-term deal.

The AFC North is expected to be one of the most competitive divisions in football. The Ravens are the slight favorite to take home the crown at +165, with the Bengals close behind at +210, per DraftKings. The Browns saw their odds improve to +235 following the news on Watson.

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