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After more than a year of monitoring the allegations, investigations and legal battles of Deshaun Watson while simultaneously conducting an investigation of its own, the NFL should soon be able to clarify whether the quarterback will serve a suspension.
Watson, who does not face any criminal charges, reached confidential settlements with all but four of the women who accused him of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. Prior to the settlements, it seemed the NFL would make a ruling on Watson’s future by early July.
The settlements will not factor into the severity of any potential punishment Watson faces according to league VP of communications Brian McCarthy.
"Today's development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process," McCarthy said in a statement.
The Browns didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Three people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports they expect the NFL will push for a one-year suspension. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the NFL.
Once the league has finished its investigation and is ready to make a recommendation, the NFL will forward all of the information gathered to the disciplinary officer, Sue L. Robinson, a former federal judge, who is jointly compensated by the NFL and NFLPA. It's part of a multi-step process agreed upon between the NFL’s owners and players when they signed off on a new collective bargaining agreement in 2020.
At the same time that the NFL makes its recommendations to Robinson, the NFLPA is allowed to make a suggestion of its own. Two people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports that the NFLPA will argue that Watson should not serve a suspension. They also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the situation.
Robinson could hold additional meetings or hearings to gather further information. Then she would come to her decision and share it with the NFL, Watson and NFLPA. Both the NFL and NFLPA are allowed to appeal the punishment handed down by Robinson. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or an individual of his choosing would preside over the appeals process.
Goodell, or the official he designates, would have the power to overturn, reduce, modify or increase the punishment.
It’s unclear how long Robinson’s decision or any ensuing appeals process would take. But the league, the NFLPA and Watson are almost certainly trying to get the matter resolved as quickly as possible so the Browns and Watson know how to approach the 2022 season.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson waits word on NFL investigation