The Buffalo Bills will host the Cleveland Browns in Week 11 of the 2022 NFL season. For much of the offseason, the football world has been wondering about the fate of embattled Browns’ QB Deshaun Watson, who was accused of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women.
On Monday, Watson’s punishment was announced by an independent mediator: Watson will serve a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
That means that, barring an appeal, Watson will be forced to sit out Cleveland’s first six games of the 2022 season, but will be able to return to the team well in advance of the Browns’ Nov. 20 trip to Highmark Stadium to take on the Bills.
According to multiple reports, including Tom Pelissero with the NFL Network, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who issued the six-game suspension during a ruling on Monday, reported that even though Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy, the league had never logged a suspension longer than six games so she didn’t want to wildly change precedent.
Before Robinson’s ruling was issued, the NFL players’ union put out a statement on Sunday evening, emphasizing how it will “stand by” Robinson’s ruling.
Both sides have three days to appeal Robinson’s ruling, at which point the case would then go up the NFL ladder to commissioner Roger Goodell—or his designee—to issue a final ruling on Watson’s appeal.
Throughout the process, Watson has remained steadfast in denying any and all wrongdoing during his massage sessions. Robinson disagreed.
The Browns traded for Watson this offseason, packaging three first-round draft picks to the Houston Texans before issuing a new five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract extension to Watson, the most lucrative deal in NFL history.
At the start of training camp, with Watson’s uncertain status, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told the media that Jacoby Brissett would serve as Cleveland’s starting QB should Watson miss any time due to a suspension.
Cleveland opens the season on Sept. 11 at the Carolina Panthers.