As it stands, the NFL’s deadline for appealing the six-game suspension imposed on Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson arrives on Thursday. That’s the same day the NFL will stage its first contest of the season, the Hall of Fame game. In Canton. Just down the road from Cleveland.
That’s hardly ideal for the league, if it wants the full benefit of three business days to consider the next move. The relevant provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the parties to extend the deadline by mutual agreement of the league and the union.
And the league may want time to make its decision. Time to see how people are reacting to the six-game suspension. Time to see whether there’s an outcry that compels the Commissioner — who was under siege in 2014 for being too lenient with Ray Rice — to intervene and increase the suspension.
“The appeal shall be limited to arguments why, based on the evidentiary record below, the amount of discipline, if any, should be modified,” the CBA provides. “The Commissioner or his designee will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute and will be binding upon the player(s), Club(s) and the parties to this Agreement.”
In other words, there will be no new evidence, if there’s an appeal. No new proof. No facts that weren’t previously introduced. Judge Robinson’s factual findings will control.
But her factual findings, whatever they specifically were, caused her to impose a six-game suspension. In other words, she decided that he did enough to get suspended for more than a third of the season. Thus, there are sufficient facts on which the Commissioner can base a decision to suspend Watson longer than that, if the Commissioner so chooses.
Before it gets to that point, the league must decide whether to appeal. It has three business days, unless the NFL and the NFLPA agree to bump the issue beyond Hall of Fame weekend.