Disney, Apple, Amazon have submitted bids for Sunday Ticket

NFL: JAN 29 Super Bowl LIII Experience
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As DirecTV prepares to conclude an exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket run that began nearly 30 years ago, three companies have made a play to take over the package in 2023.

Alex Sherman of CNBC.com reports that Disney, Apple, and Amazon have submitted bids for the out-of-market package. At this point, the three mega-companies are playing the waiting game.

The league is looking for a partner to pay at least $2 billion for Sunday Ticket, and possibly to acquire a stake in NFL Media, the league’s in-house TV and web conglomerate. Mobile rights also could be part of the package, per the report.

As explained by Sherman, the fact that the league has added NFL Media to the mix has delayed the process. The three companies that have made bids would like to get things resolved, sooner than later.

PFT previously has explained that the winning bidder for the Sunday Ticket package could then sell satellite rights back to DirecTV. Sherman’s report echoes that notion. The challenge will be to strike the right balance between customers who should be expected to purchase the streaming-only Sunday Ticket product and those who are better served by satellite. Restaurants and bars remain a major issue in this specific aspect of the broader Sunday Ticket conversation.

Mickey Loomis: Saints “prepared for anything” with Alvin Kamara discipline

NFL: JAN 09 Saints at Falcons
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Saints running back Alvin Kamara‘s arrest on felony battery charges in Las Vegas in February is expected to result in a suspension under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.

PFT reported this week that Kamara is bracing for a six-game suspension and the prospect of a ban came up during General Manager Mickey Loomis’ appearance on the Dattitude podcast this week. With the case still making its way through the legal process, it’s unclear when a suspension would be handed down and Loomis said that means the team is going to have to prepare for all possible outcomes as they look ahead to the 2022 seaon.

“We really just have to wait and see what happens,” Loomis said, via Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com. “For me, I always try to [determine] what’s the worst-case scenario and what’s the best-case scenario. We have to be prepared for anything. That’s really the way we approach anything and everything, is be prepared for anything that can happen.”

A hearing in Kamara’s case is set for August 1 and any league discipline for Kamara could be pushed into 2023 if the league waits for the legal process to conclude before beginning their own disciplinary process.

Negotiated suspension of Deshaun Watson seems very unlikely at this point

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The NFL, the NFL Players Association, and Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson reportedly were discussing the terms of a negotiated suspension under the Personal Conduct Policy. Those talks reportedly “fell apart.” It’s not believed that they’ll be put back together.

Per a league source, the current expectation is that the NFL will propose a suspension on Watson, and that the case will proceed to arbitration, with the Disciplinary Officer presiding. Commissioner Roger Goodell would then have final say over any appeal, filed by either side.

Multiple factors have made a negotiated resolution difficult to achieve. First, the league can’t afford to create the impression that it was too lenient with Watson. If the NFL, the NFLPA, and Watson reach an agreement on a suspension that would be regarded as acceptable to everyone, the end result could be viewed as insufficient by media and fans. To satisfy those who would criticize the league for being too soft, the league needs to propose a lengthy suspension. A settlement possibly could reached after that. If that happens, the league will have still made a clear, strong statement of significant punishment on Watson.

Second, the union possibly will argue, under Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, that there can be only one punishment of Watson for the same conduct — even if he continues to be accused of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions by previously unknown plaintiffs. This potentially will compel the league to impose an even longer suspension to account for the possibility of additional claims.

Although Article 46 could be interpreted to allow Watson to be disciplined for the cases that already have been filed and to punish him again for new cases that may emerge, the league may not want to assume the risk of a future suspension being scrapped due to a technicality. But waiting for all statutes of limitations to expire isn’t an acceptable alternative, especially if Watson resolves the other four pending lawsuits.

That said, a settlement as to the suspension could leave the door open for future punishment, if new claims emerge. This leads the league back to the original problem. Any settlement reached before the league proposes a suspension could create the impression that the league didn’t do enough — and it was the impression that the league didn’t due enough to Ray Rice that almost brought down the whole operation in 2014.

So perhaps the best chance for a settlement will come after the league proposes a lengthy suspension, with an agreement that the door will remain open if other lawsuits are filed in the future.

NFL uses aggressive reading of its Constitution & Bylaws to argue for arbitration of all Brian Flores claims

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The NFL has, as it always does, filed paperwork aimed at forcing the claims made against it to the league’s in-house arbitration system, better known in these parts as a secret, rigged kangaroo court. Close inspection of the 25-page memorandum of law filed by the NFL earlier this week in the case filed by by Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton reveals a very aggressive interpretation of the NFL’s Constitution & Bylaws, as part of an effort to force all of the claims out of court and into a process that is far more favorable to the league and its teams.

As to all three plaintiffs, the broad arbitration clauses contained in their employment contracts become the obvious basis for an effort to force arbitration. Flores, who worked for the Dolphins, has sued them for firing him. Wilks, who worked for the Cardinals, has sued them for firing him. Horton, who served as defensive coordinator of the Titans, has sued them for not making him the head coach. It will be difficult for them to avoid the duty to arbitrate; they’ll have to successfully attack the fundamentally unfair nature of the process. (And it is.)

But the case sweeps more broadly. Flores has filed claims against the Broncos, Giants, and Texans. He never worked for any of those teams. Thus, none can rely on the arbitration language appearing on a take-it-or-leave-it basis in the contracts team employees sign.

Instead, those teams rely on the NFL’s Constitution & Bylaws. They focus on two aspects of Section 8.3 of the document. Under Section 8.3(A), the Commissioner has “full, complete, and final jurisdiction and authority to arbitrate . . . [a]ny dispute involving two or more members of the League or involving two or more holders of an ownership interest in a member club of the League, certified to him by any of the disputants.” Section 8.3(B) gives the Commissioner the same power over “[a]ny dispute between any player, coach, and/or other employee of any member of the League (or any combination thereof) and any member club or clubs.”

The first argument is ridiculously weak, and it’s a prime example of the overlawyering that often happens in cases like this, when the lawyers are paid by the hour, handsomely. The teams basically contend that, because the claims made by the three plaintiffs involve “two or more member clubs,” the cases must be arbitrated.

This ignores the common-sense purpose of the provision. It’s there not to provide for a mechanism for resolving disputes between employees and teams. It’s there to provide a mechanism for resolving disputed BETWEEN TEAMS.

The second argument is stronger, relatively speaking. As to Flores, the teams contend that the claim made against the Broncos occurred when he was employed by the Patriots, and that his claims against the Giants and Texans (which arose when was not employed by any NFL team) became the subject of mandatory arbitration under Section 8.3(B) once he became employed by the Steelers. More broadly, the league claims that, because Flores cites systemic racism that has existed in the NFL for decades, the conduct of which he is complaining occurred while he was working for the Patriots and Dolphins, requiring him to resort to arbitration under Section 8.3(B) of the Constitution & Bylaws.

Both arguments under the Constitution & Bylaws seem flimsy. They arise from the NFL’s obvious desperation to steer all claims into its secret, rigged kangaroo court.

The process will continue with more written submissions, presumably oral argument, and inevitably a decision from the presiding judge. And if the NFL loses, expect the league to keep file appeal after appeal, until the case makes it way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justin Jefferson: We’re not a run-first offense anymore

NFL: DEC 20 Vikings at Bears
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Vikings running back Dalvin Cook spent time lined up as a wideout during the team’s OTA practices this spring and said that he’s happy to play “wherever they want to fit me in” on offense during the 2022 season, which are a couple of many signs being sent about the team’s new look on offense under head coach Kevin O’Connell.

There has been frequent mention of modernizing an offense that had grown stale in recent seasons and wide receiver Justin Jefferson has been enthusiastic about the direction that he sees the team moving in this year. That continued to be the case in a recent appearance on NFL Network.

Jefferson said there’s “definitely a different vibe, a different connection” with O’Connell running the show and one of the changes appears to be a direct benefit to Jefferson and others who will be catching passes from Kirk Cousins this season.

“Our offensive style, it’s not a run-first offense anymore,” Jefferson said. “Just us being able to put different people in different positions and distribute the ball, really. I’m so excited in this offense. Us just being in OTAs, learning the plays, going through it with our defense, and stuff.”

Jefferson produced at a high level while playing in that “run-first offense” the last couple of years, so the shift in philosophies could be setting him up for even bigger things in 2022. That’s good reason for Jefferson to be excited and for others to be curious about what the Vikings will do offensively this fall.

Josh Allen: We’ve got the highest expectations out of anybody

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After falling to the Chiefs in a thriller during last season’s divisional round, the Bills are considered one of the league’s top contenders to win the Super Bowl in 2022.

But even with the team’s high expectations, the players aren’t putting undue pressure on themselves.

That’s according to quarterback Josh Allen, who pointed to the leadership among the players as a reason why the Bills can handle what’s to come over the next few months.

“I think the locker room and the guys that we have do such a good job of communicating and putting our expectations out there,” Allen said during the team’s minicamp this month. “And, again, we’ve got the highest expectations out of anybody. I know you can look at the media, you can hear different word after different word, and different thought after different thought. But we’re here for one goal and that’s to win a world championship. So we’re trying to do everything we can do.

“We’re not putting too much pressure on us because we know what to expect. But in terms of going out there and executing, we’re just trying to get better and play the best football we can play.”

Offensively, Buffalo finished last season third in points and fifth in yards. Defensively, the team was first in points allowed and yards allowed.

With the club adding edge rusher Von Miller, re-upping receiver Stefon Diggs, and getting another year of growth out of Allen, there’s plenty of reason to think the Bills could be the team to beat in the AFC this year.

Will the Texans still face litigation over Deshaun Watson?

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It was either a hollow threat or a solemn promise. For now, it’s looking as if it were the former.

On June 8, attorney Tony Buzbee said he “will be joining” the Texans as defendants to the pending lawsuits against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. Not “might be” or “could be” or “should be,” but “will be.”

Earlier this week, Buzbee told Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times that the Texans are not a party to the settlements in 20 of the 24 cases pending against Watson.

This means that they could still be sued by the 20 plaintiffs who have settled, by the four who haven’t, by the two who supposedly were suing Watson but haven’t yet, and whoever else may come forward eventually.

There’s also a chance, theoretically, that the Texans kicked in some cash to settle the cases with the express understanding that their involvement would be kept completely and totally confidential, with that confidentiality including (for example) Buzbee saying that the Texans were not parties to the settlements.

For the 20 plaintiffs who have settled with Watson, suing the Texans becomes tricky. The Texans would defend themselves by blaming Watson for the misbehavior, arguing that all responsibility belongs to him and him alone. With Watson not a party to the cases, it becomes easier for the Texans to dump on the so-called “empty chair” at trial.

That doesn’t stop Buzbee from trying. And in the four cases that haven’t settled yet, all bets are off. The cases continue. The Texans could be joined.

Again, Buzbee said “will be.” It was either bluster aimed at pressuring Watson to settle (if so, mission accomplished) or it was a genuine guarantee that, 16 days later, Buzbee still intends to honor.

Joe Burrow “started updating that resume” during his time at Ohio State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Army at Ohio State
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Joe Burrow came pretty much out of nowhere in 2019 with the kind of season at LSU that made him the first pick in the 2020 draft. It was as unexpected for him as it was for those who witnessed it.

In a recent interview with Chris Simms, Burrow admitted that he had moments of near-resignation during a three-year stretch at Ohio State of not playing.

“I was putting in the same work that I always put in and wasn’t playing,” Burrow said. “Of course there was self-doubt in that moment. I mean, when you don’t pay for three years, and you’re putting in the work and you feel like you’re practicing really well and you feel like you can go out there and make plays and do what you’ve always done but you’re not getting the opportunity to show what you can do, it’s frustrating.  And there were times when I started updating that resume, thinking about being an investment banker, or something like that.”

Obviously, he didn’t have to use his non-football resume. But it’s a reminder of the fine line that often exists, not just between being in the NFL and not being in the NFL, but between being one of the best players in the NFL and not playing football at all.

Players, no matter their skills, need opportunities. Burrow didn’t get one at Ohio State. He got his shot at LSU, and he made the most of it.

Without that opportunity to reach a player’s potential, however, the potential can never be reached. It underscores the power that football coaches have over a player’s career, and it shows that even great college coaches can miss future NFL stars who are lurking right under their noses.

For three years.

NFL sees “really powerful” growth potential for football in Africa

NFL: FEB 08 Super Bowl LVI - Super Bowl Experience
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The NFL is holding its first talent scouting camp in Africa this week and the plan is for the trip to Ghana to be the start of a sustained effort to build a foothold on the continent.

NFL International COO Damani Leech said that the league would like to host events in Nigeria and South Africa, among other countries, in the future because of the potential the league sees to “grow and develop” the game. Current and former players like Osi Umenyiora, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Uchenna Nwosu, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kwity Paye, Roman Oben, and Mathias Kiwanuka are helping to identify players who would be good fits for the league’s International Player Pathway or academy programs while also acting as proof of the kind of talent pool that exists across Africa.

“It’s really driven by two things: there’s over 100 players in the NFL from Africa — born in Africa [or] whose parents are first generation American — so there’s a tremendous talent pool on the continent that we as a league have not actively [pursued],” Leech said, via Leonard Solms of ESPN.com. “The second is what’s happening broadly in Africa in terms of population growth projections, urbanisation projections, availability of urban technology and broadband wi-fi. All of those things make Africa a [region] that in the next 25-30 years, we think, is going to be really powerful. We want to position the league to be successful in Africa.”

Leech said there are no current plans to hold a game in Africa, but the league’s constant desire to expand into new markets suggests that could be on the table at some point in the future if the effort to build interest in the sport is as successful as hoped.

Alvin Kamara braces for suspension of at least six weeks, eventually

NFL: FEB 06 2022 Pro Bowl
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With so much focus on the status of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, another high-profile NFL player also is poised to be suspended under the Personal Conduct Policy.

Per a league source, Saints running back Alvin Kamara is bracing for a suspension of at least six weeks. The only question is when the suspension will be imposed.

The league typically prefers to wait until the criminal legal process has ended before taking action. Kamara faces felony battery charges, with the next hearing set for August.

The incident happened in Las Vegas, on Pro Bowl weekend. Kamara was questioned and arrested at Allegiant Stadium, after the Pro Bowl ended.

The Personal Conduct Policy provides for a baseline six-game suspension in the event of felony battery. Aggravating factors include repeated striking. Kamara reportedly told police that he threw a “couple punches.”

Kamara possibly could be placed on paid leave pending resolution of the criminal case, given that he faces a felony charge. He would still be subject to a potential unpaid suspension after the case is resolved.

Justin Herbert on possible contract extension after 2022: I’ll just keep playing and hope for the best

NFL: DEC 12 Giants at Chargers
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Bills quarterback Josh Allen received an extension after his third season, the offseason he became eligible for one. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray wants the same to happen for him before he enters his fourth season this fall. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is heading into his fifth season without an extension.

After the contract Deshaun Watson received from the Browns after the trade from the Texans, the price for a franchise quarterback is going to continue to rise.

One player who becomes eligible for an extension after this season is Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who should be one of those players to benefit from the rise in quarterback salaries. He was the AFC starter for the Pro Bowl in his second season and has passed for 9,350 yards and 69 touchdowns in two seasons.

“We haven’t discussed anything, but I’ve been so fortunate to play for the Chargers,” Herbert told CBS Sports. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m just so excited to be here and play football. This has been a great opportunity, and I don’t wish it went any other way.

“I love that I was drafted here and that I have been able to play here. I think we’re doing all the right things. I believe in the staff, all the teammates, the front office. So all I can do is hope for the best. It’s out of my control, but I’ll keep playing football.”

He is scheduled to make $7.248 million in salary this season and $8.457 million in 2023. The Chargers also have the fifth-year option available for 2024.

Tyreek Hill says he received death threats over his comparison of Tua Tagovailoa to Patrick Mahomes

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The first episode of Tyreek Hill‘s podcast stirred things up on multiple topics. In the second episode of Tyreek Hill’s podcast, Hill and his co-host tried to clean things up.

Right out of the gates in Season One, Episode Two of It Needed To Be Said, Hill and Julius Collins complained about the “snippets” of episode one that made the exact stir they wanted to create.

Free advice to anyone with a podcast. You either want people to watch and react to the things you say, or you don’t. But you don’t get to choose how people react. And the things that were said on the first episode of Hill’s podcast invited and encouraged reaction.

That said, some fans apparently went too far.

“I got death threats from every social media — every social media account I own, I got death threats on,” Hill said. “Which is ridiculous. Which I love it, you know?”

Hill never said why he loves it. Our guess, based on what he said and how he said it, is that he loves that his comments stirred things up, and that he doesn’t take the death threats seriously.

Collins specifically complained that some in the media directed a “shut up and play” attitude toward Hill. We didn’t notice that anywhere; “shut up and play” is the reaction by those who want athletes to not talk about other issues, primarily politics.

That said, it’s fair game for media to criticize Hill for what he says. To do that isn’t to tell him to “shut up and play.”

He has the right to offer up his opinion. And those who listen to his opinion have the right to react to his opinion. Isn’t that what Hill and Collins want? Reaction, engagement, interest, etc.?

It could be that Hill, like plenty of other athletes and celebrities, wants to be able to give his opinion and to have no one criticize his opinion, even if his opinion deserves to be criticized.

That’s not what it means to express an opinion. Expressing an opinion — especially a strong opinion that seems ludicrous to the average person (such as “Tua is more accurate than Patrick Mahomes“) — cries out for the very reaction he experienced.

“I took a lot of heat, man,” Hill said of the reaction to the first episode of his podcast. “From fans, from analysts, from family members. It was crazy. Like, last week was probably the craziest week of my life while playing for the Miami Dolphins.”

But what did he expect? He said things that most people would find to be grossly incorrect, comparing an all-time great to a quarterback who is still fighting to achieve his potential, and saying that the unproven quarterback throws passes more accurately than the proven quarterback.

Again, Hill has every right to express his opinion. Anyone who listens to his podcast has the right to react to his opinion with their own opinion. If Hill and Collins don’t like that or don’t understand it, they shouldn’t be doing a podcast.

Yes, Hill’s comments (which he said were aimed at giving Tua more confidence) will serve only to put more pressure on Tua to live up to Hill’s praise. Yes, Hill’s comments about his role in the Kansas City offense last season put more pressure on the Dolphins to get him the ball more than the Chiefs did in 2021, because he made it clear in Episode One that he wasn’t happy with the number of targets and touches he got in 2021.

Collins was introduced in the first episode as Hill’s long-time lawyer. If Collins still represents Hill, Collins should ask himself whether the directions in which Collins nudges Hill will lead him to say things that are in Hill’s best interests. Indeed, several of the more controversial comments Hill made in the first episode were prompted by questions from Collins, who knew or should have known what Hill was going to say and how others were potentially going to react.

The first episode lasted nearly an hour. The second episode lasted 25 minutes. It consisted exclusively of reacting to the reaction to the first episode. If the third episode will consist of the reaction to the reaction to the second episode, there may not be a fourth.

And, frankly, if Hill and Collins want to be able to say inflammatory things without dealing with the natural and obvious consequences of saying inflammatory things, Collins the lawyer should advise Collins the podcast co-host that it’s time to call it a day.

Carson Wentz: It’s been fun to build chemistry with Curtis Samuel

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Washington signed Curtis Samuel to a reported three-year, $34.5 million deal last offseason.

But Samuel’s availability was particularly limited in 2021 due to a lingering groin injury. He ended up appearing in just five games, playing just 84 offensive snaps. He finished the year with 10 touches for 38 yards.

But now Samuel is healthy and his new quarterback, Carson Wentz, is looking forward to playing with him in 2022, calling him “explosive.”

He’s explosive,” Wentz said in an interview with the team’s website. “When you see the ball in his hands and how quickly he’s making a guy miss or he’s getting down the field, it’s impressive.

“I’ve only played with a handful of guys who have that kind of quick-twitch ability that he has. … It’s been fun to build that chemistry and see what he does well.”

Samuel, a second-round pick in the 2017 draft, had 1,051 yards from scrimmage — 200 rushing, 851 receiving — on 118 touches in his last year for the Panthers in 2020. He then signed with Washington, reuniting with Ron Rivera, the head coach who drafted him with Carolina.

“I’ve seen it from afar over his career already,” Wentz said. “But seeing it up close, in person is pretty cool.”

If Samuel is able to play consistently in 2022, he’ll surely provide a significant boost to the club’s offense.

Hall of Famer Hugh McElhenny dies at 93

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Hugh McElhenny, whose superb playmaking with the ball in his hands made him one of the biggest football stars of the 1950s, has died at the age of 93.

A California state champion in the both the hurdles and the long jump as a high schooler, McElhenny was about as close as a high school football player could get to stardom in the 1940s. Newspapers ran articles speculating about where he would attend college, and it was a shock when he decided to enroll not at a major football powerhouse but at Compton Junior College. After one year of stardom on Compton’s football team, he spurned hometown schools USC and UCLA and chose the University of Washington and became an All-American fullback as well as a punt returner, kickoff returner and kicker. McElhenny’s 296-yard rushing game against Washington State remains Washington’s all-time record.

When he was 91, McElhenny admitted in an interview with TheAthletic.com that he chose Washington because they offered him money to provide for his family.

“I had so many choices. I wanted to go to USC or UCLA and stay in Los Angeles, but the University of Washington came up with a package for me to be able to marry my wife, Peggy, so I took their offer,” McElhenny recalled.

The 49ers selected McElhenny with the ninth overall pick in the 1952 NFL draft, and he made an instant impact, leading the NFL with a whopping 7.0 yards per carry as a rookie. Along with quarterback Y. A. Tittle, halfback John Henry Johnson and fullback Joe Perry, McElhenny formed in the 1950s what was referred to as the Million Dollar Backfield, although all four players combined didn’t even make $1 million from the 49ers.

McElhenny was known for his great speed, elusiveness and field vision, and few players of his day could match his highlight-reel runs. He was chosen a first-team All-Pro halfback in five of his first NFL seasons.

By 1961 the 49ers felt that McElhenny had lost a step, and they placed him on the expansion list, allowing him to leave for the Minnesota Vikings a first-year expansion team. McElhenny had a good first season in Minnesota, leading the Vikings in rushing, finishing second on the team in receptions, and scoring a touchdown on a punt return. But he struggled to make much happen late in his career, serving as a backup for one more year for the Vikings, one for the Giants and one for the Lions before retiring.

McElhenny was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981. After retiring he served as a commentator on 49ers radio broadcasts, and then in the 1970s he joined a group attempting to bring an NFL expansion team to Seattle, although his group’s efforts were unsuccessful and a different group founded the Seattle Seahawks.

Although most footage of his games is in grainy black-and-white, even today the NFL Films archive of McElhenny’s great plays stands the test of time. He was a football player for the ages.

Report: Settlement talks between NFL, NFLPA, and Deshaun Watson “fell apart”

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Last week, we pointed out that a negotiated resolution of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s discipline was possible, but not likely. The problem was that Watson, as of last week, was determined to clear his name.

With Watson settling 20 of the 24 cases pending against him, that possibly will lay the foundation for a settlement between the league, the union, and Watson.

Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reports that negotiations have indeed occurred. However, talks “fell apart” regarding the extent of the punishment.

Negotiated discipline is not unprecedented. The outcome is announced as the punishment being final, with the player waiving his appeal rights.

Complicating matters for Watson is the fact that there’s no precedent for the new procedure that starts with the NFL proposing a punishment, continues with an independent Disciplinary Officer setting the discipline, if any, and the Commissioner having jurisdiction over any appeal from the player or the team. Unless the Disciplinary Officer decides to impose no discipline at all, Goodell gets the final crack at determining the punishment.

The best outcome for Watson would be to settle everything. Settle the lawsuits. Settle the discipline. Serve the suspension. And then come back, play good football, win games, stay out of trouble, and in time much of this incident will be forgotten. Just like it was for Ben Roethlisberger.