On Tuesday, the hearing regarding the potential discipline of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will commence. It could still, in theory, settle before the proceedings begin.
For that to happen, the NFL would have to dramatically change its current position.
Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal, who reported last night that the league will push for an indefinite suspension lasting at least one year, explains that the NFL won’t accept a resolved suspension less than one season, at a minimum.
This could change once the two sides start presenting evidence and arguments and, more importantly, when Judge Sue L. Robinson starts making remarks and/or decisions that may reveal her views regarding the case. The most important wrinkle likely will be whether and to what extent she allows Watson and the NFL Players Association to pursue the idea that discipline of any player must be proportional to discipline imposed on owners who have potentially violated the Personal Conduct Policy.
If she orders the NFL to surrender all evidence regarding the Commanders investigation and the punishment of owner Daniel Snyder to the NFLPA, that could put pressure on the league. If she orders the NFL to produce evidence regarding whether to investigate or to discipline Patriots owner Robert Kraft in connection with his solicitation charge (it was dropped), that could put pressure on the league. If she orders the NFL to provide information regarding the failure to investigate the Cowboys voyeurism scandal, that could put pressure on the league. Put simply, the league could cut a deal with Watson to avoid having to disclose information that it would rather keep concealed as to Snyder, Kraft, and Jones.
If Judge Robinson cuts off that defense, advantage NFL. It can, at that point, dig in its heels. Especially since the NFL holds the ultimate trump card. If any discipline at all is imposed by Judge Robinson, the league can appeal the case. Commissioner Roger Goodell or his hand-picked designee has full and final jurisdiction over the appeal.
Thus, whatever Judge Robinson does, the end result could still be exactly what the NFL currently is proposing. The only way for Watson to avoid that outcome is to have Judge Robinson impose no discipline at all.