All eyes are on the NFL as it reportedly prepares to finalize its investigation of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, the most polarizing player of the 2022 offseason. Watson has proclaimed his innocence in the face of 24 — and reportedly soon to be 26 — civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and misconduct during his Texans career. And his new team, which committed a record $230 million to the QB as part of its blockbuster acquisition of him this year, has publicly defended him. But all signs point to the league suspending Watson for at least part of 2022, if not the entire season, while enforcing its personal conduct policy.
Players do not have to be criminally charged in order to violate the policy, and Watson falls in that camp: two different Texas grand juries have declined to indict the QB this offseason, even while more women have accused the former first-round draft pick of being a “serial predator” and the New York Times has reported Watson used at least 66 private massage therapists over a 17-month span during his time in Houston — dozens of which now allege he violated them.
But is there a precedent for a potential Watson suspension? Not a perfect one, by any means; rarely has a player of his stature, at his position, faced such a high volume of accusations and yet also been free of criminal charges. The NFL‘s history of player discipline also lacks a distinct pattern, especially since new standards were only implemented in 2014 in response to the infamous Ray Rice case, when the league unsuccessfully attempted to enact a second, indefinite suspension on the ex-Ravens running back once video surfaced of the player’s assault, which had previously been punished with a mere two-game ban.
Still, if you’re looking for a potential baseline suspension for Watson, it might not hurt to review the bans issued to starters or other players with notable roles over the last 15 years, since the…