Cleveland Browns stick to QB prep plan despite NFL appeal of Deshaun Watson’s 6-game suspension

BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Friday that the team is waiting to see what happens with the NFL’s appeal of Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension before changing its plans. quarterback in practice.

At this point in training camp, Watson has gotten the overwhelming majority of snaps with the first-team offense; replacement Jacoby Brissett mostly worked with the second team.

“We will just wait for clarification on the situation,” Stefanski said ahead of practice on Friday. “Just keep pushing forward with what we’re doing.”

Stefanski was speaking for the first time since the NFL announced Wednesday it was appealing the decision of disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge, as she seeks a tougher sentence under the policy personal conduct of the league.

“The NFL’s appeal concerns whether, based on Judge Robinson’s findings, discipline should be amended to include professional assessment and treatment determined by medical experts, an appropriate fine, and a longer suspension. long,” the league said in a statement. .

On Thursday, the NFL announced that Commissioner Roger Goodell had appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal. Harvey now works as an associate at Patterson Belknap in New York. He was also a federal prosecutor and a member of the NFL’s Diversity Advisory Committee. Harvey has also been named by Goodell in other arbitrations. In 2017, Harvey was one of four members of an expert panel that reviewed the league’s domestic violence investigation into Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was suspended six games for violating the driving policy.

The NFLPA said Friday it filed its brief in response to the NFL’s appeal.

There is no timeline for when Harvey will hear the call. According to the league’s personal conduct policy, this must be done in an expedited manner. Under the collective agreement, Harvey’s written decision “will constitute a full, final and complete settlement of the dispute and will bind the player(s), club(s) and parties to this agreement.”

Earlier Friday, Cleveland All-Pro right guard Wyatt Teller said the Browns players are ready for a resolution regarding Watson’s availability for the season.

“Yeah sure,” he said. “Obviously we want to know what’s going on and get it over with. I think if a team were in that situation, that’s what they would want.”

Watson has been charged with sexual assault and other inappropriate behavior during massage sessions in civil lawsuits brought by 25 women. The meetings alleged in the lawsuits took place from March 2020 to March 2021, when Watson was a member of the Houston Texans. Watson sat out last season with the Texans after asking Houston for a trade earlier in the offseason.

In issuing the six-game suspension, Robinson wrote that “the NFL has met its burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists identified in the report.”

However, in imposing the suspension, Robinson pointed to loopholes in the league’s player misconduct guidelines, which limited his power to sanction him.

While building on the precedent, Robinson sought to differentiate between violent and non-violent sexual behavior. Robinson concluded that Watson’s conduct “does not fall into the category of violent conduct that would warrant the minimum six-game suspension” that the league had established as “by far the most common discipline imposed for domestic or gender-based violence and sexual acts”.

The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending three first-round picks to the Texans. Cleveland then gave Watson a new five-year contract which was the richest contract in NFL history for any player.

Stefanski has yet to say whether Watson will start or even play in Cleveland’s preseason opener next Friday in Jacksonville.

“We have to prepare Deshaun to play, he hasn’t played football for a year,” Stefanski said. “We have to prepare Jacoby to play, he’s going to potentially play early for us and start and we’re going to rely on him. … We’re going to use every opportunity we have here, individual drill, after training, in training, we gotta get all these guys ready to play.”

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