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HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson will meet with NFL investigators this week as the league moves closer to concluding its probe into sexual misconduct and assault allegations against the Cleveland Browns quarterback, two sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports.
“It is safe to assume that the NFL will be interviewing Deshaun at great length in the near future,” one source said.
The NFL has repeatedly declined comment on its Watson investigation. Both sources said the league still hasn’t indicated a timeline for closing its probe or a decision on a potential suspension for Watson. However, in previous cases involving allegations of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, the league’s interview with the accused has typically been one of the final pieces of information gathered before rendering a suspension judgement. As it stands, Watson is facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging a range of sexual misconduct or assault. He began sitting for depositions in several of the cases last month.
League investigators have already interviewed several women who have made allegations and filed civil suits against Watson. They could be requested for further interviews following Watson’s meeting with the league as well. Once the interviews are completed, the NFL will review the investigation and decide on the next step.
Under the latest collective bargaining agreement, the question of whether Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy is ultimately expected to be weighed by former U.S. District Court Judge Sue Robinson. Robinson has been chosen by the NFL and NFL Players Association to act as an impartial arbitrator in disciplinary cases such as Watson’s.
But the NFL must first determine whether it believes Watson violated the policy. The steps in the league’s probe are expected to fall into one of these tracks:
The NFL finds that no personal conduct policy violation occurred. Watson faces no discipline.
The NFL finds that a violation of the personal conduct policy occurred. It forwards its findings to the independent arbitrator for a decision.
If applicable, the independent arbitrator weighs the evidence presented by the NFL and determines no personal conduct policy violation occurred. Watson faces no punishment. Per the CBA, the NFL cannot appeal this decision from the arbitrator.
If applicable, the independent arbitrator weighs the evidence presented by the NFL and determines a violation of the personal conduct policy did occur. The arbitrator can then determine the punishment rendered for the infraction. If the NFL disagrees with the punishment rendered, the league can appeal it to commissioner Roger Goodell, who then makes a final determination on any punishment, which could range from a suspension to a monetary fine.
We may be nearing one of these conclusions, as indicated by the NFL meeting with Watson this week.