Not long ago, some connected to the NFL Players Association were floating the notion that a lawsuit arising from a lengthy suspension imposed by the NFL on Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson could potentially result in Watson playing in Week One against the Panthers. Now, the NFLPA seems to have backed away from that argument.
“The tide has turned on this as an option,” Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports tweeted on Monday afternoon. “Chances of arguing it successfully now appear extremely low. The first question will be why, if they wanted to be assured of a temporary restraining order, they wouldn’t have gone the extra step and cross-appealed.”
That’s one of the points we made over the weekend, in picking apart what would be a very flimsy argument. The union failed to appeal Judge Sue L. Robinson’s six-game suspension. The NFL’s appeal applies only to the failure to suspend him longer than six games. The first six games simply aren’t at issue as the case proceeds. Any lawsuit would be relevant to Week Seven, not Week One.
It’s a no brainer. Judge Robinson imposed a six-game suspension. The union didn’t appeal it. That portion of the case is over. Done. Finito. The only remaining question is whether the union can prevent a suspension of longer than six games.
There’s also a question as to the number of games that would prompt a court battle. If Peter Harvey suspends Watson for twelve games, would the union fight it in court?
What if Harvey suspends Watson for 12 games and fines him $10 million, taking the salary he earned last year while not playing. While some who should know better continue to insist that Watson’s failure to play in 2021 had nothing to do with his off-field situation, the simple truth is that, if he wasn’t dealing with civil cases and/or criminal investigations, he would have played in 2021 — for someone other than the Texans. The Dolphins, for example, were ready to trade for Watson if he settled the 22 lawsuits that were pending against him at the time. But for four holdouts, it would have happened. If there had been no lawsuits or criminal probes, he would have been traded, and he would have played.
So why not fine him the $10 million he made while not playing in 2021? There’s a logic to it, especially if he also will be suspended a dozen games in 2022. It also gives Harvey a chance to create the impression that he’s not doing exactly what the league wants him to do. Even if, ultimately, he is.