Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, after months of proclaiming that he did nothing wrong, apologized to the women “impacted” by his behavior in an interview that was televised before his preseason debut on Friday night. After the game, Watson had nothing to add.
Via Jake Trotter of ESPN.com, Watson declined to comment on his apology, or to further address the situation.
Watson’s sudden reversal comes at a time when rumors are rampant of a potential settlement with the NFL. Appeals officer Peter Harvey has yet to issue a ruling, nine days after the league exercised its right under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Personal Conduct Policy to seek a longer suspension than the six-game ban imposed by Judge Sue L. Robinson. The policy requires the appeals process to be expedited, but it contains no deadline for the issuance of a decision.
As one source explained it on Friday, Harvey is delaying the ruling to give the NFL and the NFL Players Association a chance to work out a compromise.
The league currently holds all the cards. However, a settlement would avoid a potential challenge to the suspension in federal court. The NFL possibly hopes to avoid arguments that would compare the punishment imposed on Watson to discipline (or lack thereof) experienced by owners for actual or potential violations. Under the Personal Conduct Policy, owners are supposed to be held to a higher standard.
Judge Robinson found that Watson committed four instances of non-violent sexual assault. Those findings are binding on the appeal process. She also found that he wasn’t truthful with investigators, and she described the conduct as “egregious” and “predatory.”
Watson reportedly is willing to accept an eight-game suspension and a $5 million fine. The question is whether he’d go higher under either category in order to resolve the situation — and whether the league will go below the potential floor of 12 games.