The NFL has signaled its dissatisfaction with the six-game suspension levied on Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, by filing to appeal the decision.
The appeal process, as agreed upon by the league and the NFLPA in the most recent collective bargaining agreement, can be heard by none other than NFL commissioner Roger Goodell himself.
But according to a new report, Goodell won't be playing the judge in the appeal of Watson's case. Instead, the league will farm out those duties to "someone outside the league office," per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
The reported development comes just a day after it was revealed that the league would be appealing the six-game ban handed down to Watson by arbitrator Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge who was commissioned to serve as the jury and judge, so to speak, in the first suspension case of its type in league history. Prior to this process, cases were adjudicated by Goodell, with his judgments often coming under withering criticism. The new process was installed to relieve Goodell and the league of that burden, and to assure the players and fans that a fair decision could be reached by an ostensibly independent party.
Robinson's decision found that a six-game suspension was appropriate given the precedent set by the league in similar cases in the past. Critics said it was too lenient, given that Watson was accused of sexual assault or harassment by upward of 30 women, with the number of alleged victims virtually unprecedented for an NFL player.
Among those dissenters, apparently, was the NFL itself.
Prior to Robinson's ruling, the league had reportedly offered to settle Watson's case with a suspension of 12 games and a fine of nearly $10 million, but Watson's camp turned down the offer.
Meanwhile the NFLPA has vowed to adhere to Robinson's decision but has threatened to pursue a federal lawsuit if the length of Watson's suspension is changed through the appeal process. Watson's six-game ban was set to begin in Week 1, but according to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports HQ, Watson's legal team could pursue a temporary restraining order against an unfavorable decision levied through the appeal process, potentially making him available for the start of the season while the federal lawsuit plays out in court.
Watson, who turns 27 in September, was not charged after two separate Houston-area grand juries declined to indict him following criminal investigations. He has settled 23 civil lawsuits, including several in recent days, reportedly leaving one outstanding civil case.