CLEVELAND (WJW) – Cleveland Browns fans are back in limbo as the NFL appeals the six-game suspension for quarterback Deshaun Watson.

While there is no clear timeline of when a decision will be made on the appeal, the first preseason game is in a week, on Friday, Aug. 12.

The suspension

As FOX 8 reported, Deshaun Watson was given a six-game suspension Monday. Watson and the player’s association had said Sunday night they wouldn’t appeal.

The NFL said Watson violated three provisions of its personal conduct policy by engaging in sexual assault, conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person, and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.

Former federal judge Sue L. Robinson agreed that Watson violated all three provisions but did not grant the full-season suspension the NFL had asked for. She made the ruling about six games based on what she said was the NFL’s own record for dealing with personal conduct issues.

The appeal

Late Wednesday, the NFL announced it was appealing the suspension. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell designated Hon. Peter Harvey to hear the appeal, the NFL said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Based on rules agreed to in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ultimately has the final say with one exception. While the commissioner has the power to “overturn, reduce, modify or increase the discipline previously issued,” the commissioner cannot alter a decision to not discipline the player at all. (Read more on the CBA below.)

The NFL Player’s Assoc. said Friday that it filed a reply brief on the matter but offered no further details.

When does the suspension begin?

Watson is allowed to participate in practice and preseason games until his suspension starts in the regular season.

As the suspension stands now, here are the games he’ll miss:

  • Week 1: Browns @ Panthers, Sept. 11
  • Week 2: Jets @ Browns, Sept. 18
  • Week 3: Steelers @ Browns, Sept. 22 (Primetime)
  • Week 4: Browns @ Falcons, Oct. 2
  • Week 5: Chargers @ Browns, Oct. 9
  • Week 6: Patriots @ Browns, Oct. 16

It’s not clear if the Browns will put Deshaun in the preseason games that start on August 12.

Will Watson still be paid?

Deshaun Watson signed a five-year, $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns, including a $44,965,000 signing bonus. His average salary will be $46 million in 2022, with most of that money coming in the signing bonus.

Jacoby Brissett

Get your Brissett jerseys! He’s going to be the Browns’ starter when the season opens in North Carolina on Sept. 11. Brissett was signed a day after Deshaun Watson’s deal was announced, so he’s been the Browns’ plan all along.

He’s a veteran. Brissett is 29 and has played for the New England Patriots, the Indianapolis Colts and the Miami Dolphins.

He has a 60.2% career pass completion rating. The 6’4” 235 lbs. quarterback has mostly been a backup player during his career. His short career as a starter came because of Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement announcement in 2019. The Colts were 7-9 on the season.

FOX 8 caught up with him at training camp this week.

“Since I have been in this league, it has been the next man up. That was the case my rookie year. Like you said, it has been that way since I have been in the league. That experience obviously helps with not only the playing but also the mindset of understanding of like, ‘Hey, you have to be ready whenever your number is called,” Brissett said.

What if Brissett gets hurt?

If Brissett gets injured before Watson’s return, there are two more quarterbacks on the roster.

The Browns signed Josh Rosen to a one-year deal a few weeks before the initial ruling on Watson was handed down.

In his 2021 season with the Atlanta Falcons, he played four games with two completions for 11 attempts with two interceptions and zero touchdowns.

The Browns signed Joshua Dobbs to a one-year deal in April. He has no stats for the 2021 season and played one game for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020.

Background

Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by 24 massage therapists. He has made settlements with 23 of them.

He was not criminally charged.

Read the CBA

In 2020, the NFL and NFL Players Association made changes to the Personal Conduct Policy.

It’s in effect through 2030.

This version incorporated a disciplinary officer as to whether a player will be suspended.