Deshaun Watson maintains innocence, NFL issues 11-game suspension to Cleveland Browns quarterback

Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 11:59 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The NFL has suspended Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson for 11 games and issued a $5 million fine for violating the league’s personal conduct policy in a new ruling.

Watson, Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, and other team officials spoke to the media after the ruling was announced.

Reports of a decision in Watson’s investigation first surfaced just before noon on Thursday.

Watson also issued a statement after the decision was agreed upon.

The Browns star was originally given a six-game suspension on Aug. 1 by former U.S. District Court Judge Sue Robinson, appointed by the NFLPA and the NFL as the arbitrator for the disciplinary hearing in June.

The the NFL appealed the former judge’s ruling on Aug. 3.

The NFL appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the league’s appeal on Aug. 4. The NFLPA and Watson filed a reply brief to the appeal on Aug. 5.

The initial game suspension would have kept Watson off the playing field until the team’s away game against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.

Twenty-four women, all of whom are represented by attorney Tony Buzbee, previously filed civil lawsuits against Watson, who was traded to the Browns in a blockbuster deal with the Houston Texans in March, for alleged sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.

According to a previous report from Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times, the QB met with ‘at least’ 66 different women between the span of 2019 and 2021, including the 24 women who filed lawsuits against him. Watson has since settled 23 of the 24 lawsuits.

Buzbee also filed lawsuits against the Houston Texans organization in connection to Watson’s actions.

The Texans organization said in a statement to 19 News on June 27 they have complied with law enforcement officials and various investigations since 2021.

“We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today,” the statement read. “Since March 2021, we have fully supported and complied with law enforcement and the various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization.”

The Texans settled the 30 lawsuits filed against them July 15. Despite settling with the 30 women, the organization denied any wrongdoing.

Watson, along with his attorney Rusty Hardin, has denied wrongdoing since his arrival to Cleveland, including during his introductory press conference in March.

Deshaun Watson denies allegations

Prior to the Browns preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Watson publicly apologized to the women impacted by his actions.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said during the NFL’s owners’ meeting on Aug. 9 that the evidence presented by Robinson in her ruling warranted a 1-year suspension for Watson.

Prior to Robinson’s decision, reports from Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal indicated the league wanted to suspend the Browns QB indefinitely. The indefinite suspension would give the league flexibility to keep Watson out for longer for a variety of factors, including any new lawsuits surfacing.

The Browns offense will run through Jacoby Brissett, now that former starting QB and 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield is no longer a Brown after being traded to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional 2024 draft pick.

Brissett has previously been a long-term starting QB in the NFL, most prominently after Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck suddenly announced his retirement from the league in 2019.

He threw for 2,942 yards on an 18-4 TD-INT ratio that year.

This story is ongoing and will be updated as more details are released.

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