Latest On NFL’s Deshaun Watson Appeal

2:59pm: Peter Harvey, a former New Jersey Attorney General, will hear the league’s Watson appeal. Goodell had the power to hear the appeal himself, but the longtime commissioner has appointed Harvey, who is now a partner at the New York-based Paterson Belknap firm. The NFL’s statement (via’s Mike Garafolo, on Twitter) indicates Harvey has “deep expertise in criminal law, including domestic violence and sexual assault.” Harvey also helped implement the NFL’s personal conduct policy, Mary Kay Cabot of notes.

10:23am: It came out yesterday that, as many around the NFL had been hoping and expecting, the league will appeal the six-game suspension handed down to Deshaun Watson. Further details have emerged regarding the specifics of the NFL’s options to proceed and some of their intended outcomes.

One of the central questions is the matter of who will hear the league’s appeal. Commissioner Roger Goodell has  the option to oversee the matter personally, or have an appointee do so. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that Goodell will delegate to “someone not with the league office” (Twitter link). The NFL has faced public pressure to file an appeal, but also had to weigh that against the reality that doing so would appear to undermine the ruling of retired judge Sue L. Robinson, the independent third party authorized under the new CBA to render a decision.

As has been known for some time, the league will be using the appeal as another attempt to sideline the Browns QB for at least one season. Part of the incentive to do so, as noted by CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (on Twitter), is the fact that Watson’s deal is set to pay him the league minimum (thus severely lessening the financial penalty of a suspension) and his “lack of remorse.” Watson’s contract isn’t unique amongst other Browns stars in that regard, but it has understandably been considered a “sticking point” from the league’s perspective.

Increasing the six-game suspension to an indefinite one, but not including a fine remains one outcome of a successful appeal, per Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson (Twitter link). Alternatively, the league could aim for a ban of less than one season; in that scenario, a fine would come into play. In any event, Robinson adds that a central goal of the NFL is to avoid Watson being eligible in time for the Browns’ Week 12 game against the Texans, which will be played in Houston.

Of course, any action which increases the punishment levied against Watson could lead to the matter being taken to federal court by the NFLPA. The threat of that action could lead to a revival of settlement talks, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (video link). He adds, however, that the league would likely view “a substantial number of games” in addition to “a significant fine” as the starting point for any negotiations.

As Pelissero notes, an indefinite ban would render Watson ineligible to participate in the remainder of training camp and the preseason, so any further legal action in his defense would be expedited by a heavier suspension. In any event, there is more to come in this saga.

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