May 18, 2024

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Report: NFL ‘more likely’ to accept Deshaun Watson’s 6-8 match suspension and not appeal

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There was not much news during or after the first day of Deshaun Watson disciplinary hearing. There is a specific element of the information that has emerged that calls for further analysis and interpretation.

From Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press: “I’ve also told the NFL, despite insisting on an indefinite suspension, wants to avoid the appeal process – a ‘terrible situation for everyone involved’ – the source said – so the league is More likely to commit Under Sue Robinson’s rule if she returns six to eight games.”

It’s a surprising revelation. If this is true and accurate (and we will bow to my contempt for that), the question becomes what does that mean?

For starters, why is the NFL leaking this important franchise? Does he fear that if Judge Robinson believes the NFL is destined to take advantage of an inherently fraudulent appeal process, she will likely impose no discipline whatsoever on Watson? After all, this is the only way under the collective bargaining agreement to prevent any appeal, which will then be resolved by the commissioner.

It’s hard not to wonder if it’s all a hoax meant to get her to force it some Discipline, so that the league can appeal the commissioner, whose staff have already decided that Watson should be suspended for at least a year.

Remember that the commissioner cannot afford to be seen as too lenient with Watson. It would be hard to convince anyone of the idea that the league had accepted something far less than the NFL wanted, simply to avoid prolonging the “terrible situation.” Due to the process steps that the NFL and NFL Players Association has negotiated collectively, the league has the absolute right to make any decision from Judge Robinson to the commissioner, other than a decision not to discipline Watson at all. Why would the league simply accept Judge Robinson’s decision, if it fell far short of what the league wanted?

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Honestly, it feels like a dope rope maneuver by the league. By having Judge Robinson believe the league won’t appeal her decision if he goes down in the 6-8 game range, she’s probably less inclined to find that Watson shouldn’t be disciplined at all, because otherwise that’s the only solution. You want to prevent the commissioner from imposing the penalty that the league currently wants. By leaking this to the Associated Press after the first day of hearings, it is very likely that the university will use the media to negotiate with Judge Robinson about moderate discipline, with a vague gesture that its decision will not be affected if it lands in the supposed preferred range.

If he pushes her to force 6-8 games assuming the league won’t challenge her, the league can then start the appeal process and ask for whatever they want in the first place.

Really, how “terrible” would the situation be if the League were to challenge Judge Robinson’s decision before the commissioner? It’s not like there was another complete hearing. This is happening now. Appealing to the commissioner will be much simpler and more effective. It will take less time and effort. According to the same language of the anti-corruption law, it will allow the commissioner to carry out the same punishment that his office is currently trying to secure.

Anyone who knows anything about the way the league office has behaved under Roger Goodell for nearly 16 years knows that the league will be just as aggressive as they choose. Despite periodic blunders (including in particular the failed handling of the Ray Rice case), the commissioner rose to his feet as the enforcer. Why would anyone think they would accept a Watson 6-8 suspension when the league office is currently pushing for a minimum ban of at least one year?

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No, it looks like an attempt to get Judge Robinson to believe her ruling would be safe, in order to reduce any temptation to shut the door on the commissioner’s appellate jurisdiction by finding that Watson should not be punished at all. And if we’re able to see this, she is, too.

minimum? We don’t buy it. Nor should she. Nothing was leaked to the Associated Press or anyone else bound by the NFL. Once the league obtains the 6-8 match suspension it is now seeking, the league can appeal to the commissioner. Some will say, “But I thought they wouldn’t appeal this term suspension?” The league, at this point, could either ignore these questions or simply say, “We never formally said that.”

Given that this is the first application of the new process arising from the 2020 business deal, there is no precedent, no history, and no prior practice. Everyone plows new land, sails in uncharted waters.

The league has a long history of doing everything in its power to get anything it wanted. Currently, you want to suspend Watson for at least a year. It’s very hard to imagine the league will ignore and accept 6-8 games, when they know they can appeal the case directly to the person who runs the league office to get more. Our guess is that the league wants to make sure that Judge Robinson enforces some discipline, so that the commissioner can enforce the full scope of discipline the league wants.