CLEVELAND — After the NFL opted to appeal his initial suspension, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson now knows his football fate. On Thursday, Watson and the NFLPA reached a settlement with the NFL on his punishment, with the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback now set to serve an 11-game suspension, in addition to paying a $5 million fine.
Additionally, Watson will be required to continue to undergo mental health counseling. The Browns and NFL have also agreed to each pay $1 million, which in addition to Watson's fine, will be put toward sexual assault prevention programs.
Per the terms of the suspension, Watson's suspension officially begins at 4 p.m. ET on Aug. 30, and he will be eligible to return to the team facility on Oct. 10 and begin practicing again on Nov. 14. He will be eligible to play in the remainder of the Browns' preseason games and is set to lose $632,500 of his salary, in addition to the $5 million fine.
Watson addressed the media after the 11-game suspension was announced, which you can watch in the player below:
Watson also released the following statement through the team:
"I'm grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and extremely appreciative of the tremendous support I have received throughout my short time with the Browns organization. I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I made. My focus going forward is on working to become the best version of myself on and off the field and supporting my teammates however possible while I'm away from the team. I'm excited about what the future holds for me in Cleveland."
Following the settlement, Watson is now scheduled to make his Browns debut on Dec. 4 on the road against the Houston Texans -- his former team. Veteran backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett is currently slated to start in his place for Cleveland while Watson serves his suspension.
The settlement comes more than two weeks after former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson issued a six-game suspension for Watson, ruling that he had violated the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy on the following three counts:
- Conduct that Qualifies as a Sexual Assault
- Conduct that Poses a Genuine Danger to the Safety and Well-Being of Another Person
- Conduct that Undermines, or Puts at Risk, the Integrity of the NFL
Robinson had been jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) to serve as the Disciplinary Officer in Watson’s case. The league, however, exercised its ability under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to make an appeal on the punishment to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a designee of his choosing.
Goodell ultimately opted for a designee, selecting former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, who has previously advised the league on disciplinary matters, including the development of the Personal Conduct Policy. In making its appeal, the NFL had reportedly been seeking an indefinite suspension lasting no less than the entirety of the 2022 season, a fine and treatment.
The league and Watson, however, reached their settlement before Harvey was able to issue a ruling in the "expedited" process.
The settlement between the two sides is the latest — and likely final — development regarding Watson’s football future that has occurred since the Browns acquired him in a blockbuster trade with the Texans in March. While his disciplinary case with the NFL focused on four specific accusers, the Clemson product has reached settlements on 23 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, including harassment and assault during his time with the Texans. One related civil case remains ongoing.
Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents all of the women involved, had this to day on the final suspension:
"By settling this matter the way he has, Roger Goodell has proven one of two things: either his recent rhetoric was utter baloney, or his bark is much worse than his bite. My belief is that he is nothing more than a paper tiger. The message today to all victims is clear, if you believe you have been sexually assaulted by a powerful person, keep your mouth shut and go away. The NFL has certainly demonstrated that it’s ownership and the organization doesn't care."
"To all sexual assault survivors, do not allow this recent 'punishment' to deter you. Keep speaking up and keep speaking out. Your voice matters. You are making a difference. We stand with you."
Two Texas grand juries have declined to indict Watson on criminal charges as a result of the accusations. The 26-year-old has publicly maintained his innocence throughout the process.
Last month the Texans, reached settlements with 30 women regarding allegations that they enabled the star quarterback's behavior during his time with the team. In a statement, the Texans said they admitted no guilt in making the settlements.