Roger Goodell defends Deshaun Watson suspension appeal, cites evidence of ‘predatory behavior’

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell defended the decision to appeal the six-game suspension given to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson by an independent disciplinary officer last week.

Goodell said Tuesday he believed the evidence called for a full-year ban instead of just 33% of the regular season. He said retired Judge Sue L. Robinson was “very clear” about the facts presented in her 16-page report in which she sued “egregious” and “predatory” to describe Watson’s actions.

“Because we’ve seen the evidence,” Goodell said when asked why the NFL was seeking a longer punishment. “She (Robinson) was very clear about the evidence. She reinforced the evidence, that there was multiple violations here, and they were egregious, and that it was predatory behavior.

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“Those were always things we felt was really important for us to address and in a way that’s responsible.”

Goodell cited the collective bargaining agreement for empowering the league to seek further discipline.

“Either party could certainly challenge and appeal that and that was something that we felt was our right to do as well as NFLPA,” he said. “So we decided it was the right thing to do.”

Goodell appointed Peter C. Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general, to handle the appeal. Goodell said he did not have a timeline of when Harvey would make the decision, but it was expected to be “expedited.”

Watson faced 24 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct with massage therapists. He settled 23 of the 24 civil suits ahead of the suspension announcement. He was investigated by two Texas grand juries but avoided criminal charges.

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Watson has denied any wrongdoing throughout the matter and made his stance clear in his introductory press conference after he was traded to the Browns from the Houston Texans.

“I have never assaulted, disrespected or harassed any woman in my life,” Watson said as he sat next to head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry. “I was raised differently. That is not my DNA. That is not my culture. That is not me as a person.”

In July, the Texans settled with 30 women after the team was accused of ignoring concerns and enabling Watson. Terms of the settlement remained confidential.

Watson missed the 2021 season as he initially requested a trade from the Texans. He signed a fully guaranteed five-year contract with the Browns upon joining the team.

In 2020, Watson had 4,823 passing yards and 33 touchdown passes.

He is expected to travel with the Browns for their first preseason game Friday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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