Last month, Deshaun Watson‘s lawyer said they expect to hear something from the NFL in June. As of tomorrow, June is already halfway over. And there’s no indication that the league is ready to do anything.
Then again, there rarely is any such indication of what the league will do, until the league does it. If the league will be trying to suspend Watson without pay to start the 2022 season, time is of the essence.
Remember, it’s a three-step process. First, the league office proposes discipline. Second, the Disciplinary Office (retired judge Sue L. Robinson) evaluates the case, conducts a hearing (if she deems it necessary), and makes a decision. Third, unless Judge Robinson decides to impose no discipline at all (which would end the process), the Commissioner handles the appeal. His decision is final.
It will take time for the second and third steps. At the latest, it needs to be resolved before Week One. Ideally, the Browns will have an answer before the start of training camp. (Then again, the Browns can’t complain about the current uncertainty; they made this bed.)
With two more lawsuits to be filed, pushing the total to 26, and with no indication as to what the final tally will be, it’s making more and more sense for the NFL to press pause on Watson’s career via paid leave, letting him focus on putting these 26 cases (and counting) behind him for good.
There’s a big difference between an unpaid suspension and paid leave. For the former, Judge Robinson is involved. For the latter, the Commissioner makes the call exclusively. If the league becomes intent on sidelining Watson until the litigation has ended, paid leave provides the path of least resistance.
At this point, how can the league not be at least thinking about keeping Watson off the field until the cases end? If the league isn’t already at that point, how many more cases will it take to get the league to that point?