Roger Goodell’s appointee in the Deshaun Watson appeal, former N.J. attorney general Peter Harvey, could drop the hammer of an indefinite suspension plus a major fine on the Cleveland Browns quarterback this week.
Or Harvey could marginally increase Watson’s six-game suspension, handed down by neutral judge Susan Robinson, and reveal this process to be more of a negotiated compromise than the league and union have portrayed it to be.
Miami-based attorney Brad Sohn, who has litigated several cases covering football’s collective bargaining agreement, thinks it will be the latter: something like 8-to-10 games plus a huge fine.
“I view this situation as a case study in optics,” Sohn told the Daily News Saturday morning.
Essentially, from a legal perspective, while Watson’s alleged behavior warrants punishment, imposing an indefinite suspension on a league appeal could be perceived as Goodell delivering a forceful rebuke of Robinson and, therefore, of this entire new collectively bargained arrangement with the union in the personal conduct policy.
Goodell already appointed Harvey to hear the league’s appeal, rather than serving as the final judge and jury himself, which the CBA grants him the right to do.
The NFL has made no secret that is still pushing for an indefinite suspension, plus a monetary fine and mandatory treatment. But the appointments of Robinson (jointly by the NFL and NFLPA) and Harvey (by the league) give both the NFL and union distance from the final decision.
So a middle ground — building on Watson-league negotiations that stalled prior to Robinson’s ruling — would allow both the NFL and NFLPA to walk away claiming the process worked.
“Doing that — essentially brokering a deal through the public display of an arms’ length process with different people assisting to broker the discipline — makes the NFLPA look good because it can say the new CBA works,” Sohn said. “And the NFL looks like they’re respecting that process but also can enhance the discipline. So assuming it goes that way, both sides can lay claim to modest victories.”
Before Robinson ruled for a six-game suspension, the most Watson’s side was willing to accept in negotiations with the league was 6-8 games, per multiple reports. The NFL, meanwhile, wouldn’t go any lower than a 12-game ban and a fine in the range of $8-10 million.
The union could file a lawsuit in federal court if Harvey extends Watson’s suspension indefinitely, but it would not challenge the original six-game suspension, and precedent has shown that generally in the NFL’s cases, that simply delays the inevitable of time being served.
Sohn doesn’t think it will come to that, though. He says that Watson’s case, from a legal perspective, is not black and white. His pattern of alleged sexual assault clearly warrants discipline, but a Texas grand jury also failed to find sufficient evidence to indict him on criminal charges.
“The NFL is susceptible to valid criticism if it doesn’t act,” Sohn said. One experienced lawyer’s opinion, though, is that the action will fall short of the rhetoric, because this is more of a negotiation than it appears to be.
Fresh off their embarrassing Kyler Murray contract drama, the Arizona Cardinals turned in a second straight week of high-profile dysfunction.
Wide receiver Marquise Brown was arrested for driving 126 mph in a 65 mph zone. The team placed running backs coach James Saxon on administrative leave after news that he’d been charged with two counts of domestic violence.
And coach Kliff Kingsbury offered an interesting explanation for why he had Murray call plays from the sideline to the backup quarterbacks at one practice.
“I just wanted him to know that, ‘Hey, this shit ain’t easy,” Kingsbury told reporters. “Every now and then, he starts shaking his head when I’m calling it in there. I’m like, ‘Alright, go ahead, big dog.’”
Wonder if Murray gets credit for that as homework. The Cardinals QB then had to quarantine for five days after testing positive for COVID-19.
Just another week in Arizona.
CONDITIONING? SOUNDS FAMILIAR
Giants coach Brian Daboll mentioned twice after Friday night’s practice at MetLife Stadium that his team needs to improve its “conditioning.”
“I think we have to improve our conditioning level,” Daboll said. “That’s why we did those two long drives [for the first-string offense and defense]. And I think everyone can get a feel for where they’re at individually. But collectively, that’ll be a point of emphasis this week.”
Former coach Joe Judge put a premium on conditioning. So did Brian Flores, the former Dolphins coach that the Giants interviewed for this vacancy. Both Judge and Flores are known for regular conditioning periods in practice and penalty laps or sprints after mistakes.
Daboll’s spring and early summer programs haven’t been especially grueling by comparison. The Giants medical staff’s plan for managing players focused primarily on rest during the spring.
At times in both the spring and summer, Daboll has had players run sprints in between plays to simulate playing key downs while tired. He is a Bill Belichick disciple, like Judge and Flores, so he values conditioning and knows it’s important.
But Daboll also said in June that he doesn’t believe in conditioning for conditioning’s sake.
“Just to do it just to say we’re conditioning, that’s — we really have a mapped out plan of when we do it and why we’re doing it,” Daboll said during OTAs.
At the time, the Giants’ first-year head coach offered this qualifier, though: “If we’re not doing a good enough job in practice running after the guys with the ball in their hand or chasing downfield as an offensive lineman or trying to get down there and get an extra block, then you have to offset it by doing something else.”
Now Daboll says that conditioning will be a “point of emphasis” approaching the Giants’ first preseason game at New England at Foxboro on Thursday night.
It will be interesting to watch Daboll navigate any plan to increase the team’s conditioning work internally, and to see how different the Giants’ next few practices might look.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Jimmy Garoppolo’s market got more interesting this week with the news that Rams QB Matthew Stafford is experiencing elbow pain in his throwing arm that is “a little bit abnormal for a quarterback,” Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters. McVay said the injury is similar to what “pitchers deal with” in baseball. He said, “it is something I’ve never navigated through as a coach with a quarterback.” The Cleveland Browns seem like Garoppolo’s most likely landing spot, with Watson expected to miss most or all of this season following Goodell’s appeal. But if the 49ers fail to find a trade partner and are forced to release Garoppolo into free agency, could Jimmy G end up signing in-division with the L.A. Rams? If the reigning Super Bowl champs need reinforcement or insurance, why not? …
I like the Las Vegas Raiders to win the competitive AFC West provided they solidify their offensive line. Right guard Lester Cotton was impressive in Thursday night’s Hall of Fame game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but with starting left tackle Kolton Miller resting, reserve left tackle Brandon Parker (especially) and right tackle Alex Leatherwood weren’t up to snuff. The Raiders have high hopes in Josh McDaniels’ first season as head coach. They need a line that matches their aspirations …
Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton is buried on the team’s wide receiver depth chart. He saw significant time with the third-string offense at Friday’s practice. Other teams are aware, but because Slayton projects to be released, Giants GM Joe Schoen doesn’t have much leverage to execute a trade. It’s more likely teams will wait the Giants out and count on Slayton being cut and hitting free agency, where they can sign him without giving up assets to the Giants. It’s early in camp, so it’s always possible that injuries to other players could save Slayton. But it doesn’t look good …
Schoen and the Giants need more depth at positions like offensive tackle, corner, tight end and running back, so Schoen will be heavily involved around final cuts on Aug. 30 scouring talent that is being waived from the other 31 teams. One offensive tackle reportedly available via trade is Chicago Bears second-year tackle Teven Jenkins, 24, who had back surgery as a rookie in 2021, played in just six games with two starts last season, and has sat out all of this year’s camp under new coach Matt Eberfllus. Presumably the Bears wouldn’t be able to get more than a late-round pick for the former second-rounder out of Oklahoma State. But it’s still not clear how healthy he is, and NFL front offices will have to go mostly by their pre-draft evaluations to judge his fit.
THEY SAID IT
“Mr. Watson’s pattern of conduct is more egregious than any before reviewed by the NFL.” — retired judge Sue L. Robinson in her 16-page decision on Watson