The NFL is likely planning to propose a full-season suspension of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson amid allegations of sexual misconduct, according to a report published on Friday.
The league is hoping to have settled the entire disciplinary process for the looming ban by the start of training camps in mid-to-late July, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported, citing an unnamed source in Watson's camp.
Meanwhile a league source clarified that a "significant" suspension should be expected but it would be premature to speculate about a precise length, the report said.
Watson, who turns 27 in September, has been participating in Browns offseason workouts following his acquisition by the team in March. He was inactive for all of last season after he requested a trade from his former team, the Houston Texans, despite rampant speculation that he could be dealt prior to the trade deadline. An in-season trade never materialized, apparently because of the uncertainty surrounding his legal situation.
The three-time Pro Bowler faces more than two-dozen civil lawsuits from massage therapists alleging various forms of sexual misconduct, including harassment and assault. He has not faced criminal charges after separate grand juries in Houston-area Harris and Brazoria counties declined to indict him.
Watson and his attorneys have maintained his innocence since the allegations first surfaced in March 2021. They have said some of the alleged incidents were consensual while others were fabricated.
The NFL will make its case for suspension to former US district judge Sue L. Robinson, who is the disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the league and players association under the terms of the conduct policy, WaPo reported. The league's probe of the alleged misconduct has been handled by former Manhattan district attorney Lisa Friel, who has interviewed more than 10 of Watson's accusers, the report said.
The players association was planning to argue that Watson should not be suspended after Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Commanders owner Daniel Snyder were not punished after cases involving alleged misconduct, a "person with knowledge of the case" told the Post.